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Hungary toxic flood villagers demonstrate for compensation

by Staff Writers
Budapest (AFP) Nov 17, 2010
The Hungarians whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed by the massive toxic sludge disaster in October are taking to the streets in their fight for compensation, their spokesman said Wednesday.

The inhabitants of the villages hit by a tidal wave of toxic mud on October 4 when a holding reservoir at a nearby alumina plant burst its walls are planning to hold a demonstration on Friday, Geza Csenki told the Hungarian news agency MTI.

A state of emergency was called in the region and will remain in place until the end of the year, effectively banning any demonstrations.

As a result, the local police have refused to give the go-ahead to the march on Friday.

But the villagers are determined to go ahead with their rally even if the police try to break it up, Csenki said.

"We'll hold our demonstration. We're demanding full compensation for everybody," Csenki said.

"Our lives have been destroyed. Now they're trying to curtail our rights as well. We won't let them. They can shoot us if they want."

The villagers are planning to march along a nearby major road, and therefore slow traffic, in order to draw attention to their plight.

Since the accident, a compensation fund has been set up by the government which has collected 1.2 billion forint (4.5 million euros, 6.1 million dollars).

But so far, only about 40 million forint (150,000 euros) have been paid out, with the government arguing villagers must first make clear whether they intend to stay put or move to new housing further away.

"We haven't been given enough information about whether it's safe to remain here in the future," Csenki argued.

"The state should compensate us for everything and get the money back from those responsible for the disaster if necessary."

Ten people died in the aftermath of the flood, which sent more than 700,000 cubic metres of toxic red mud across an area of 40 square kilometres (15.4 square miles), polluting the Danube River and its tributaries and causing an ecological disaster.

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