You might not know what alumina is - neither did I. But hundreds of Hungarians now do, after torrents of the stuff poured out of a plant and through their villages, prompting the country to declare a state of emergency.
Waves of red toxic muck have already killed four people and injured 120 with serious chemical burns. The owners of the plant say there was no sign of danger. Owners of the plant have brushed their hands of the toxic disaster, saying that not only were there no signs of an impending spill (sounds familiar!) but that the substance isn't classified as toxic by EU standards and that 98 per cent of the sludge never leaked. That two percent though, has proven to be far from trivial - estimated at 700,000 cubic metres of corrosive mud - enough to cover entire fields, fill houses and drench residents. "My bathtub is full of this sludge ... when the dam burst, it made a terrible noise. I was in my yard and I had to run up the steps to the porch, but the water was rising faster than I could run," said one victim. [Reuters]
Photo by REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
Update: Thank you to our Hungarian readers for providing further, even more disturbing imagery of the spill, including local news footage and a photo gallery better documenting the devastation.