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Toxic sludge reaches the Danube

Toxic sludge released from a Hungarian metals factory reservoir earlier this week reached the Danube today.

An emergency services spokesman said that the red sludge reached a western branch of Europe’s second-largest river this morning. But he said that the highly caustic slurry that left more than 100 people with chemical burns has been reduced to the point where it is unlikely to cause further damage to the environment.

The spill on Monday released a poisonous torrent into local rivers that flow into a network of waterways connected to the Danube

The area of Hungary hit hardest by the sludge has been declared a write-off by the country’s prime minister.

Viktor Orban visited a number of villages which have been hit by the sludge and said it made “no sense” to renovate houses which have been rendered uninhabitable. Three vilages in western Hungary have been struck by a torrent which poured from a breached reservoir at a nearby alumina factory.

The prime minister made an unannounced dawn visit to Kolontar to inspect the damage. Some 34 houses in a village of approximately 800 were so badly damaged by the caustic slurry that they cannot be repaired, local officials said.

Fears have been raised that serious ecological damage will be caused to the Danube after the toxic torrent is carried downstream by tributaries.

Officials said they expect the sludge to enter Europe’s second-largest river by the weekend or early next week.

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