Devecser, the “toxic mud town”, one year after the catastrophe

A report about the current situation in Devecser, where time has not healed all sorrows yet.

Newly built houses in Devecser (Picture taken from hg.hu)

It has been more than a year since the small Transdanubian towns called Devecser and Kolontár were brought to the top of the list of the best-known Hungarian towns on international scale. Unfortunately, this kind of “fame” came at a terribly high cost for the inhabitants of these two Hungarian towns. On the 4th October, approximately 700 thousand cubic meters of toxic sludge flooded Devecser and Kolontár as a result of the disruption of the MAL’s aluminium-manufacturing factory’s dam. The consequences of the flood were incomprehensibly shocking: ten people died, more than a hundred-sixty people got injured, three-hundred houses in Devecser, thirty-eight in Kolontár were either destroyed by the toxic mud, or had to be pulled down as a result of the sludge-caused damages. As if it had not been terrible enough, the living world of the Torna brook got heavily polluted, leaving behind several animals belonging to endangered species perished.

Sándor Pintér, the Hungarian Minister of Interior Affairs promised that the restoration of Devecser and Kolontár will have been carried out by the end of July, 2011. The toxic sludge has been completely cleared away. By the 30th June, twenty-one new houses in Kolontár, eighty-seven in Devecser were handed over. For the first anniversary of the disaster, an impressive memorial park was dedicated in Devecser. The inhabitants of Devecser are keen on the park, but they all agree that it was better if there would not have been any need to construct a memorial like that.

The present writer has been numerous times to Devecser since the disaster (on a family visit to relatives), and had the chance to witness some steps of the rebuilding process. The scars can be still seen in Devecser. Melancholy and mourning over the terrible losses are still in the air, but at the same time, the spectacular results of the restoration symbolise hope and a new beginning. Having talked to some of the local people, I have the impression that the general mood in Devecser has become somewhat better since the disaster occurred. It is evident, that for the inhabitants of Devecser it will take decades to move on, but at least some kind of gradual mental working up has begun.

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