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TOXIC MUD KILLS IN HUNGARY

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Uploaded on Oct 8, 2010

damburst of toxic sludge that killed at least four people and left scores needing treatment for chemical burns and other injuries could take up to a year to clean up, officials said Wednesday. "The clean-up and reconstruction could take months, even a year," Environment Secretary Zoltan Illes said. On Monday, the retaining walls of a reservoir at an aluminium plant in Ajka in western Hungary collapsed, sending a toxic soup of industrial waste cascading through seven villages. The devastation spread across an area of 40 square kilometers (15.4 square miles) in what officials say is Hungary's worst-ever chemical accident. Three adults and one child were killed and 123 people were injured, while three people are still missing. Karoly Tily, the mayor of Kolontar, the village where all four victims died, declared Wednesday a day of mourning, and the company which owned the reservoir, the Hungarian Aluminium Production and Trade Company (MAL), said it would foot the costs of the funerals. Illes told online publication Langlovak in an interview that the overall costs of the clean-up and reconstruction "could reach tens of millions of euros (dollars)." If MAL was unable to drum up the funds, "the sum will be borne by the Hungarian government, or it might be necessary to ask the European Union for aid," he said. The tidal wave of sludge overturned cars, swept away possessions and raised fears that pollution leeching from it could reach the Danube River, which courses through Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine before flowing into the Black Sea. Late Wednesday officials said they were confident the contamination would not reach Europe's second longest river "If our calculations are right then by the time the sludge reaches the Danube contamination will be under the acceptable levels," Emil Jenak, president of Northern Transdanubian Water Management, told AFP. A pollution expert, quoted by the Hungarian news agency MTI, said rain and neutralising agents used so far had already led to a drop in alkaline levels in the Marcal river "and the connecting Raba will suffer much less damage" than feared. But environmental organisation Greenpeace detected lead, chrome and arsenic in samples taken from a tributary of the Marcal, the river Torma.

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