A toxic red mud flooded seven villages in western Hungary, resulting in the loss of four lives, according to officials. There is concern that the death toll will rise further. The mud swamped the villages when a reservoir broke in the town of Kolontar on Monday.
Three counties are now under a state of emergency, said Hungary’s State Secretariat of Governmental Communications.
Those who lost their lives in the flood include a 1 year old child, a 3 year old child, a 35 year old man and an elderly woman. Rescue workers are still searching for seven people who are missing.
There have been 116 people injured in the flood, eight of them seriously. Most of the seriously injured are being sent to a hospital in Budapest by air.
Nearly a million and a half cubic yards of toxic mud has flooded into the area so far, covering 15 square miles, according to government officials.
In a press conference, Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said the toxic red mud “can cause burns to the skin and blindness if it gets into your eyes.”
The mud is contaminated with waste from the production of aluminum. It is reported to be slightly radioactive, very corrosive, and laced with lead, cadmium, arsenic and chromium. The long term health and environmental effects are unknown.
The sludge is currently in danger of contaminating two major rivers in the area. The flow has already reached the Marcal river. Experts are attempting to prevent it from reaching the Danube and Raba.