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October 6, 2010

A flood of toxic sludge

On Monday, October 4th, a large reservoir filled with toxic red sludge in western Hungary ruptured, releasing approximately 700,000 cubic meters (185 million gallons) of stinking caustic mud, which killed many animals, at least four people, and injured over 120 - many with chemical burns. The 12-foot-high flood of sludge inundated several towns, sweeping cars off the road as it flowed into the nearby Marcal River. Emergency workers rushed to pour 1,000 tons of plaster into the Marcal River in an attempt to bind the sludge and keep it from flowing on to the Danube some 45 miles away. The red sludge in the reservoir is a byproduct of refining bauxite into alumina, which took place at an alumina plant run by the Hungarian Alumina Production and Trading Company. A criminal probe has just been opened by Hungarian authorities. (30 photos total)

A Hungarian soldier wearing chemical protection gear walks through a street flooded by toxic sludge in the town of Devecser, Hungary on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)

An aerial photo taken Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010 shows the ruptured wall of a red sludge reservoir of the Ajkai Timfoldgyar plant in Kolontar, 160 km (100 mi) southwest of Budapest, Hungary. Note the excavators at bottom to give a sense of scale. (AP Photos/MTI, Gyoergy Varga) #

An aerial view of the broken dike of a reservoir containing red mud from an alumina factory near Ajka, Hungary on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/MTI, Gyoergy Varga) #

An aerial view of the red mud covering streets and neighborhood of Kolontar, Hungary, taken on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/MTI, Gyoergy Varga) #

Cars are piled up in a flooded parking lot in Devecser, Hungary on October 5, 2010. (ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images) #

Aluminum workers leave the Ajkai Timfoldgyar plant after the Hungarian authorities suspended its licence in the town of Ajka, Hungary on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky) #

A crushed off-road vehicle is seen on the banks of the Torna stream in the of village of Kolontar, Hungary on October 4, 2010. (INDEX ATTILA NAGY/AFP/Getty Images) #

Logs carried in by the flooding toxic mud cover a yard in the town of Devecser, Hungary on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky) #

An animal lies dead in the toxic mud, which flooded the village of Kolontar, Hungary on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky) #

A rescue helicopter lands on the road at the edge of the village of Kolontar, Hungary, on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010, where several houses were flooded by toxic mud. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky) #

Local residents are rescued by excavators in Devecser, Hungary, after a reservoir containing red mud of the alumina factory in nearby Ajka broke on October 4, 2010. (AP Photo/MTI, Lajos Nagy) #

A shopkeeper squats on the counter of a flooded petrol station in the village of Devecser, Hungary on October 4, 2010. (REUTERS/Stringer) #

An aerial view of the red mud covered streets and debris scattered in Devecser, Hungary, taken on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/MTI, Gyoergy Varga) #

A woman contemplates the damage in Devecser, Hungary on October 5, 2010 after the village was flooded by toxic red sludge. (ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images) #

Janos Kis (left) and Tunde Erdelyi look at their home flooded by toxic mud in the town of Devecser, Hungary on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky) #

Tunde Erdelyi rescues a cat from the toxic sludge in the village of Devecser, Hngary on October 5, 2010. (REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo) #

A 34-year old resident checks his new furniture in Kolontar, Hungary on October 6, 2010 after a wave of toxic red mud swept through the small village. (ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images) #

A family photograph is covered by toxic mud in a destroyed home in Kolontar, Hungary, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky) #

Local residents are rescued by excavators next to a gas station while firefighters in the foreground wade through the mud in Devecser, Hungary on Monday, Oct. 4, 2010. (AP Photo/MTI, Lajos Nagy) #

A villager passes by a dead dog killed in a flood of toxic mud in Kolontar, Hungary, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky) #

The ruptured wall of a reservoir of residue at an aluminum plant in Ajka is seen from the village of Kolontar on October 6, 2010 after a wave of toxic red mud swept through the small village two days ago. (ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images) #

A villager is reflected in a pool of toxic mud, while walking through his backyard in Kolontar, Hungary, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky) #

A Greenpeace activist takes a sample of the toxic sludge in a town near Ajkai on October 5, 2010. (REUTERS/Waltraud Holzfeind/Greenpeace) #

A 76-year-old woman is followed by a journalist as she returns to her home in Kolontar on October 6, 2010. (ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images) #

A dead fish and a corn cob lie stuck to the windshield of a car damaged by the toxic red mud from the damaged reservoir of a nearby Ajka alumina factory in Devecser, Hungary, on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. (AP Photos/MTI, Lajos Nagy) #

An aerial view of a car in a flooded area covered with red mud, in Devecser, Hungary on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/MTI, Gyoergy Varga) #

A man walks in sludge mixed with debris in Kolontar, Hungary on October 6, 2010. (ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images) #

Splashed toxic sludge residue covers the walls and door of residence near Ajkai, Hungary on October 5, 2010. (REUTERS/Waltraud Holzfeind/Greenpeace) #

A Hungarian Army soldier wearing a chemical protection outfit cleans a street of Devecser on October 5, 2010. (ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images) #

Jozsef Holczer stands in his yard flooded by toxic mud in Kolontar, Hungary on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky) #

 
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