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Hungarian alumina plant to reopen as toxic sludge death toll reaches nine

The Hungarian alumina plant behind a massive toxic sludge spill last week is to resume operations by Friday, disaster management chief Gyorgy Bakondi said on Wednesday.

A Hungarian firefighter wearing protective mask stands guard at the red sludge reservoir

Authorities are still working on shoring up the reservoir

Hungarian disaster officials say an alumina plant behind a toxic sludge spill last week that ravaged local villages and rivers will reopen on Friday, as the death toll from the disaster climbed to nine late Wednesday.

The Hungarian government has since taken control of the plant for a period of two years, appointing Gyorgy Bakondi to head the plant and announcing it would resume operations.

"We have already switched on the industrial heating [at the plant]," Bakondi told a press conference with Sandor Pinter, Hungary's interior minister.

"As soon as the system has reached its operational temperature level, we will resume production, on Thursday or Friday," he said.

The announcement came after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his cabinet ministers toured the regions affected by the red sludge to assess the damage.

Devecser off high alert

Pinter has since declared that the town of Devecser, located near the plant, was now safe and took its more than 5,000 residents off standby for emergency evacuation.

Devecser, the second settlement to be hit by the spill, had been on high alert since authorities reported that cracks in the damaged reservoir meant a further spill was likely.

Some 700 remaining residents of the village closest to the alumina factory, Kolontar, were evacuated at the time. A 670-meter-long (2,200-foot) dam is being built to protect the village from any further collapse of the reservoir wall.

Meanwhile, a ninth victim of the toxic spill died in hospital late Wednesday after succumbing to injuries.

Around 150 people sustained injuries in the flood, 45 of whom are still in hospital. One remains in critical condition.

Author: Darren Mara (dpa/AFP)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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