Hungarian Toxic Waste Flood

Monday, 11th October 2010 by

On Monday, October 4th, this filthy-looking reservoir in Hungary burst its walls, releasing 700,000 cubic metres (24 million cubic feet) of toxic sludge onto the surrounding countryside and villages.

A byproduct of refining bauxite into alumina at the Ajkai Timfoldgyar plant, the sludge swept over the landscape in a flood that was several metres high – sweeping cars off the road in its wake. The accident has so far claimed the lives of at least 8 people, and 120 more are known to have been injured – many of them suffering chemical burns.

As well as the human tragedy, large numbers of wild and domestic animals have been killed in the disaster, and the full environmental impact could last several decades according to the WWF.

There are currently an some 4,000 emergency workers and 300 machines trying desperately to stop further contamination. The Marcal and Torna rivers have already been affected, and the toxic waste is now heading towards the Raba and Danube rivers. Work is underway on an emergency dam designed to prevent the release of a further 500,000 cubic metres of toxic waste.

Earlier today Google released imagery of the affected area taken by the Ikonos satellite in the past few days. You can survey the devastation by downloading the KML file and viewing it in Google Earth.’s Big Picture site has a typically shocking photo gallery of the clean-up efforts, including one particular photo that gives you an idea of how massive this reservoir breach was1.

  1. Look for the tiny diggers!