Hungarians warned of 'cancer cloud' from leak
Published 09/10/2010 | 05:00
Thousands of Hungarian residents battling to contain the flood of poisonous red sludge have been warned to wear face masks because the slurry will turn into a toxic dust cloud as it dries.
The damage so far has come from the mud, but with dry, hot weather and strong winds forecast over the next few days, the environmental disaster is expected to get progressively worse.
Environmentalists said high levels of arsenic and mercury, which can cause cancer, had been found in water polluted by the sludge and that, if airborne, this could enter the human respiratory system. The scale of the pollution has been compared to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Seven people have died, one person is missing and 150 people have been injured since the torrent of sludge was unleashed at an alumina plant in Ajka, 100 miles west of Budapest, on Monday. Many of the injured suffered chemical burns.
Hungarian officials played down the severity of the disaster yesterday, insisting that the Danube was safe. Water tests are being carried out in Serbia and Croatia, where the Danube flows downstream.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said: "We managed to take control of the situation in time." (© Daily Telegraph, London)