domingo, 10 de octubre de 2010


Natural or ecological disasters are always hurtful but when you know someone who lives in a place (be it a town, city or the country) where one of these disasters takes place, we tend to pay more attention to it; that´s what has happened with this terrible "crimson tide" (what a lovely name for such a terrible piece of news!): two former students of mine, Marco and Roman, are studying to be doctors in Hungary and I can´t help thinking of them whenever I read, hear or watch the news these days. By the way, Marco has time to keep two blogs which I recommend: one is about his life in Hungary, Diario de un joven español aquincense and the other one, Cerebro aburrido is about his hobbies. They are both in Spanish but they are worth keeping an eye on.

This text taken from "The Big Picture" explains what happened: On Monday, October 4th, a large reservoir filled with toxic red sludge in western Hungary ruptured, releasing approximately 700,000 cubic meters (185 million gallons) of stinking caustic mud, which killed many animals, at least four people, and injured over 120 - many with chemical burns. The 12-foot-high flood of sludge inundated several towns, sweeping cars off the road as it flowed into the nearby Marcal River. Emergency workers rushed to pour 1,000 tons of plaster into the Marcal River in an attempt to bind the sludge and keep it from flowing on to the Danube some 45 miles away. The red sludge in the reservoir is a byproduct of refining bauxite into alumina, which took place at an alumina plant run by the Hungarian Alumina Production and Trading Company. A criminal probe has just been opened by Hungarian authorities

And this is a video made with information from different sources. Here is what you can do, according to your knowledge of English: you can either watch the video first and then read the transcript to check your listening comprehension, or you can read the transcript first and watch the video later or, if your English is not too good, read the transcript as you listen to the audio.

“It’s being called a toxic tsunami. A wave of noxious red sludge poured from a burst dam ( = a barrier of concrete, earth, etc, built across a river to create a body of water for a hydroelectric power station, domestic water supply, etc ) at a metal processing plant; flooding towns, engulfing cars and houses, sending residents running for their lives.” (ABC)

Western Hungary is the latest victim – of a major ecological disaster. An aluminum plant is responsible, and now officials and media outlets debate how toxic is it?

We are following coverage from ABC, NBC, BBC, The New York Times, and France 24.

First to NBC News who reports on the immediate – and potential long-term effects of the disaster.

“Some 35 million cubic feet came pouring through their villages, killing at least 4 people and injuring more than 120, many with skin burns and eye damage. ...The red muck ( = farmyard dung or decaying vegetable matter) which contains lead and is slightly radioactive which can cause lung cancer if inhaled…”

Hungary’s Prime Minister declared a state of emergency and is warning people to keep calm. But the BBC explains how the government and the people affected are seeking answers.

“There are already demands from local people and the top levels of government for an explanation from the company responsible for the containment dam which collapsed. The firm had a contingency plan for only 200-300,000 cubic meters of waste, we already know here we’ve faced 700,000-800,000 cubic meters. Our question is how it could happen that a lower number have been calculated in the official plans.”

Some officials are saying the red mud is not as dangerous as the media is portraying. The New York Times quotes an official and the plant’s owner, both of whom say the mud is not considered a “Hazardous (= involving danger) Waste”.

“The final material contains trace amounts of nearly every element found in the earth’s crust, but the United States Environmental Protection Agency does not consider red mud a toxic or carcinogenic substance … The plant’s owner issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying that ‘the red sludge waste is not considered hazardous waste’ according to European Union standards.”

France 24 and the BBC report on one of the concerns for clean-up crews - containing the spill and not allowing it to reach rivers and streams.

“But authorities are worried the sludge could reach the Danube – only 60 kilometers away. ... Large quantities of clay have been dumped into the river to try to bind the heavy metals before they reach the Danube further north.”

Hungary says it is the worst man-made disaster in the country’s history – and say that clean-up could take a year or longer

The photo which introduces this entry is from A Flood of Toxic Sludge, from "The Big Picture"

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