The boss of a company at the centre
of Hungary’s toxic sludge disaster has been arrested – amid fears another
reservoir wall could collapse.
Zoltan Bakonyi has been arrested on
charges of public endangerment and harming the environment, and the company he runs – Mal Hungarian
Aluminium Production and Trade Company – will be temporarily nationalised,
according to reports.
Eight people have died in the
spill, which happened on 4 October when the walls of a sludge reservoir gave
way near Ajka, in the west of the country.
A further 150 were injured and
thousands have been evacuated from nearby towns as concerns rise that another
wave of the toxic mud could sweep over the region.
The amount of mud spilled within
the first few hours was equal to the 200 million gallons of oil leaked into the
Gulf of Mexico during the BP disaster.
But concerns about the pollution of
the river Danube have been eased after Hungarian authorities said the
concentration of toxic heavy metals in the water had dropped to safe levels.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor
Orban, who announced the arrest, has previously promised the “toughest
possible” consequences for those responsible for the disaster.
The sludge, which is a by-product
in the manufacture of aluminium, inundated three villages before it reached the
Danube on Thursday.
Engineering crews and volunteers
have been building an emergency dam to contain any possibility of a second
Prime Minister Orban has said those
responsible for the disaster should pay the financial costs, not taxpayers.