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Prime minister visits toxic sludge-hit area

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and members of his cabinet visited the area that was devastated by a toxic sludge spill last week, as the death toll from the industrial accident rose to nine on Wednesday.

REUTERS - Prime Minister Viktor Orban visited the area around an alumina plant which flooded parts of western Hungary with toxic sludge last week and his government will decide later on Wednesday whether to restart production.
Latest checks showed no further deterioration in the damaged wall of its giant reservoir, Gyorgyi Tottos, a spokeswoman for disaster crews on the scene, told Reuters.
Orban has blamed “human negligence” for the escape of industrial waste at MAL Zrt’s plant that killed nine people, injured over 120 and polluted a tributary of the Danube.
The National Disaster Unit said on its website the latest victim died in hospital on Wednesday of injuries sustained during the spill.
Hungarian police secured the firm’s premises on Tuesday and took over the MAL’s information systems after parliament rushed through emergency legislation allowing the centre-right government to take control of the company and its assets.
Disaster Commissioner Gyorgy Bakondi said on Tuesday that the firm would remain under state control until it pays off the costs of the clean-up operation, financed in advance by the state, newspaper Nepszabadsag reported on Wednesday.
Crews in the evacuated village of Kolontar, nearest to the failed reservoir, have nearly finished a 600-metre-long emergency dam crossing the village to protect the area from a potential second waste overflow.
Kolontar was evacuated on Saturday after cracks appeared in the northern wall of the reservoir which could let out a further 500,000 cubic metres of caustic sludge if the wall fails again.
Zoltan Bakonyi, head of MAL a key employer in the region, remained in police custody pending a court decision on his arrest due later on Wednesday, police said.
“The investigating authority’s data thus far maximally support the decision to detain (Bakonyi) and the suspicions against him,” police spokeswoman Monika Benyi told Reuters.
Bakonyi failed to prepare contingency measures for a reservoir wall failure scenario, police said on Tuesday. Bakonyi had raised a complaint against being taken into custody and against the suspicions against him, police said.


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