hungary flood 311.
(photo credit: AP)
Hungary — The Hungarian town of Kolontar near the toxic red sludge reservoir that flooded the area and killed at least seven people was evacuated Saturday over fears of a new leak of the dangerous heavy metal waste, officials said.
RELATED:Toxic red sludge reaches the Danube in Hungary At least 4 killed in Hungary sludge spill; 120 injured
Experts fear the walls of the reservoir may weaken further, disaster management spokesman Tibor Dobson told The Associated Press. No new waste, however, has escaped from the huge container so far, Dobson said. The evacuation of the town of several hundred people began before dawn.
In addition to the fatalities, more than 120 were injured when the walls of a reservoir at an alumina plant gave way Monday and up to 700,000 cubic meters (184 million gallons) of toxic waste flooded several towns in western Hungary. The amount was not much less in a few hours than the 200 million gallons (757 million liters) the blown-out BP oil well gushed into the Gulf of Mexico over several months.
But the concentration of toxic heavy metals where Hungary's red sludge spill entered the Danube has dropped to the level allowed in drinking water, authorities said, easing fears that Europe's second longest river would be significantly polluted.
The red sludge devastated creeks and rivers near the spill site and
entered the Danube on Thursday, moving downstream toward Croatia, Serbia
and Romania. Monitors were taking samples every few hours Friday to
measure damage from the spill but the sheer volume of water in the
mighty Danube appeared to be blunting the red sludge's immediate impact.
Test results released by Hungary's disaster agency show the pH level of
the water where the slurry entered the Danube was under 9 — well below
the 13.5 measured earlier in local waterways near the site of the
catastrophe. That is diluted enough to prevent any biological damage,
Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said.
Despite the apparent good news, the risk of pervasive and lasting
environmental damage remained at the site of the spill, with Greenpeace
presenting laboratory tests that it said showed high concentrations of
heavy metals in the sludge.
The disaster's confirmed death toll rose from four to seven. An
81-year-old man died from injuries sustained in the torrent and two
bodies were found Friday on the outskirts of Devecser. The unidentified
victims were likely two of three Kolontar residents still missing.
The location of the bodies suggested they were swept over two miles (three kilometers) by the torrent.