Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

Acquittals over Hungary toxic spill spark outrage
By Peter MURPHY with Geza MOLNAR in Budapest
Veszprém, Hungary (AFP) Jan 28, 2016

Victims of Hungary's worst ever toxic spill, which killed 10 people and injured 150 in 2010, voiced outrage after the boss of the alumina plant that caused the disaster was cleared of any wrongdoing on Thursday.

Zoltan Bakonyi, the former director of the MAL alumina plant in Ajka, and 14 employees were acquitted of charges of negligence, waste management violations and damages to the environment.

The public prosecutor's office said it would appeal the verdict.

Prosecutors had earlier demanded prison sentences for all those on trial over the disaster, which had sent toxic sludge cascading into villages in western Hungary after the plant's holding reservoir burst its walls on October 4, 2010.

But the court said the employees -- which also included several senior managers -- could not be held criminally responsible because the disaster had ostensibly been caused by a "loss of stability in the undersoil".

The judgment sparked strong reactions in the packed courtroom in the city of Veszprem, with one man shouting "Outrageous verdict! We will protest!" before being escorted out by a security guard.

The man had also unfolded a banner showing pictures of destroyed homes, with the words: "This is all 10 people's lives are worth?"

A 54-year-old metalworker who lost his parents in the disaster, shook his head at the ruling, saying he would "never get over what happened".

"The body of my father was only found a week after the accident, covered in mud on a football pitch, some five kilometres from his home," Gyula Tokolics told AFP.

"I discovered my mother's body in the house. She had just served lunch."

- River life wiped out -

The catastrophe unfolded on October 4, when the plant's reservoir cracked open after weeks of heavy rain, releasing 1.1 million cubic metres (38.8 million cubic feet) of poisonous, red sludge.

The mud -- a caustic byproduct of aluminium extraction -- rushed into the nearby villages of Kolontar, Devecser and Somlovasarhely.

Flows of two metres (over six feet) toppled cars and submerged entire homes, leaving hundreds without homes or livelihood. Many of the survivors suffered horrendous chemical burns.

The sludge also wiped out almost all life in nearby rivers and even spread to the Danube.

In total, the devastation spread across an area of 40 square kilometres (over 15 square miles).

Responding to the disaster, the Hungarian government declared a state of emergency and evacuated around 8,000 people from the area.

Over the following months, workers worked tirelessly to remove the mud from the flood plain and doused the area with acid.

Authorities also slapped a 135-billion forint (430 million-euro, $470-million) fine on MAL in 2011 and moved to nationalise the plant.

Last February, Budapest set up a compensation fund for the victims, with many claims still outstanding.

- 'Indelible mark' -

But despite vast sums spent on depolluting the region, it still bears traces of the tragedy.

Hundreds of hectares of land remain sealed off and cannot be used for cultivation.

Having lost their homes and loved ones, dozens of local residents moved elsewhere in the aftermath of the accident.

In Devecser, church bells ring every year on the anniversary of the spill.

The accident was bound to leave "an indelible mark", the village's then-mayor, Tamas Toldi, had told AFP in 2011.

For environmental group Greenpeace, Thursday's ruling does little to help bring closure.

"We are not necessarily saying that all 15 were guilty but we very disappointed that more than five years after the disaster there is still no one held responsible," spokesman Gergely Simon told AFP.

"If you look at the scientific and technical evidence, we believe it is clear that the disaster was not a natural disaster but was due to human error," he said.

"Satellite images show that the walls of the dam were moving, and nobody checked the stability of the dam however between 2000 and 2010."


Related Links
Our Polluted World and Cleaning It Up

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Human impact has created a 'plastic planet,'
Leicester, UK (SPX) Jan 28, 2016
Planet Earth's oceans and lands will be buried by increasing layers of plastic waste by the mid-century due to human activity, according to research led by the University of Leicester. A new study, which has been published in the journal Anthropocene, examines the evidence that we now live in the Anthropocene, an epoch where humans dominate the Earth's surface geology, and suggests that th ... read more

Ten El Faro families settle with owners of sunken US ship

China pushes inferno documentary into purgatory

Charities warn of 'desperate' plight of refugees in snow

Nepal quake rebuilding to take years, new chief says

Acoustic tweezers provide much needed pluck for 3-D bioprinting

Designing a pop-up future

Mysterious behavior of quantum liquid elucidated, a world first

Chanel swaps bling for eco-inspired haute couture

US monitoring Iraq's largest dam for signs of collapse

Replace corroded lead pipes in Flint, lawsuit demands

Climate change: Ocean warming underestimated

Pressure building on global water supply

New gravity dataset will help unveil the Antarctic continent

Melting Greenland ice sheet may affect global ocean circulation, future climate

Mounting evidence suggests early agriculture staved off global cooling

Ancient underwater volcanoes may have ended 'Snowball Earth'

Molecular method promises to speed development of food crops

Global nitrogen footprint mapped for first time

Seagrass genome sequence lends insights to salt tolerance

How 'more food per field' could help save our wild spaces

Shallow earthquakes and deeper tremors along southern San Andreas fault

Alaska hit by 6.8-magnitude earthquake: USGS

Warmer Oceans Could Produce More Powerful Superstorms

More than 1,200 flee as Indonesia volcano spews ash, gas

Four soldiers killed in attack, explosion in northern Mali: military sources

Burkina arrests 11 failed coup soldiers after arms depot raid

Horn of Africa port Djibouti signs China trade deals

UN reduces size of peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast

Long-term study shows impact of humans on land

Scientists decode brain signals nearly at speed of perception

Chinese scientists create 'autistic' monkeys

The indications of a new geological epoch marked by human impact are clear

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.