Toxic sludge victims offered $7.6m

The company responsible for Hungary’s toxic flood disaster said it would pay up to 5.5 million euros ($7.6 million) in compensation to victims over the next five years.

At least nine people were killed and more than 150 injured when the reservoir of an alumina plant operated by MAL near Ajka, 160 kilometres from Budapest, burst on October 4, sending a tidal wave of toxic sludge into the surrounding area.

MAL Hungarian Aluminium Production and Trade Company “would be prepared to pay 1.5 billion forint ($7.6 billion) over five years by way of compensation for the victims of the toxic sludge catastrophe two weeks ago,” the company’s chief, Lajos Tolnay, said.

“Even if it is not possible to say yet who was responsible, we must deal with the human tragedies, for which there is financial compensation,” Mr Tolnay told the online publication Boon.

An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the disaster, but the directors of MAL have been detained for questioning.

After managing director Zoltan Bakonyi and technical chief Jozsef Deak were both questioned recently, a third director was detained on Monday, police said, identifying him as Jozsefne F, who is responsible for environmental protection at MAL.

Nevertheless, like his colleagues, the director was not formally arrested, the police said.

The village of Kolontar was hardest hit by the disaster and its population was evacuated for fear of a second spill.

But some 500 of Kolontar’s 800 residents were finally able to return home last weekend after a system of new dykes was erected to prevent another catastrophe.

“One hundred and ninety one people don’t want to return. Ninety-four houses are still empty,” the interior ministry said.

Residents of both Kolontar and another village, Devecser, whose homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by the sludge would be relocated, either within the village or elsewhere if they did not want to return, the ministry said.

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