16 Oct 2010

Villagers return home after sludge disaster

8:31 am on 16 October 2010

About 700 people have returned to a village in Hungary, after the country's worst chemical disaster.

Dozens of homes in the western village of Kolontar were made uninhabitable by sludge from a reservoir of toxic sludge at an alumina plant.

Nine people died and about 150 people were injured on 4 October when up to 700,000 cubic metres of toxic by-product from the production of alumina, burst from the storage reservoir.

The residue covered an area of 40 sq km (15.6 sq miles).

More than 700 people were evacuated from Kolontar on 9 October after new cracks appeared in a storage dyke.

The plant of the Aluminium Production and Trade company was to restart its operations on Friday.

A commissioner is now in charge of operations at MAL Zrt after the government took control of the plant earlier this week.

The BBC reports the plant will remain under state control for up to two years.

A criminal investigation continues into whether the owners followed safety regulations and whether they knew of warnings that the waste reservoir might collapse.

A system of dykes has been constructed over the past few days, to protect Kolontar from a possible second spill.

Reports say police roadblocks remain in place in and around Kolontar.