Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Boss held over Hungary toxic sludge

The boss of the company responsible for Hungary's flood of toxic red sludge has been arrested
The boss of the company responsible for Hungary's flood of toxic red sludge has been arrested
Cracks in the Hungarian red sludge reservoir which burst last week have not continued to widen, officials said (AP)
A worker stands next to a crack on top of the broken dyke of the Hungarian red sludge reservoir (AP)

The boss of the aluminium company responsible for Hungary's flood of caustic red sludge has been arrested.

Police said they were questioning managing director Zoltan Bakonyi on suspicion of public endangerment and environmental damage.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban told parliament that the government wanted to take over the Hungarian Aluminium Production and Trade Company because the safe restart of production at the plant was needed to save thousands of jobs.

Mr Orban said he was also freezing the company's assets to ensure that funds were available to compensate for the damages caused by the disaster.

"Since this is not a natural catastrophe but the damage was brought about by people, the damages must be paid first and foremost not by taxpayers but by those who caused the damage," he said.

The company said it was willing to pay compensation "in proportion to its responsibility" for the damage caused by the deluge.

Meanwhile, cracks in the reservoir which burst last week, flooding several towns with the sludge and killing at least seven people, have not continued to widen, officials said.

The National Disaster Management Directorate said measurements taken in the past 24 hours of cracks on the northern wall, which experts expected to fall, showed no further movement.

At the same time, health authorities warned the local population, as well as clean-up and building crews, that the amount of red dust in the air exceeded safe limits and that they should wear protective gear.

Parts of Kolontar, the town closest to the metals plant's 25-acre storage pool, have become uninhabitable, and more than 700 residents have been evacuated.

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