“We had just started to have lunch when my husband all of a sudden jumped up and started to scream.
Everything was red like blood,” said a farmer’s wife from the village Devecser.
On 4 October at around noon started what would turn out to be the worst ecological disaster Hungary has ever known. Within minutes after an incident at a nearby aluminium plant reservoir, the two villages Devecser and Kolontár in Western Hungary were flooded with toxic red sludge. While the sludge of the first spill has already reached a local branch of the Danube river, a damaged wall in the reservoir could even lead to a second sludge spill.
“My husband and my sister-in-law tried to save our livestock and our other belongings, but there was nothing they could do. I took refuge in the attic and from there the firemen rescued me,” the farmer’s wife said.
Six people in Devecser died from the toxic sludge, many more were wounded. Five other villages (Somló-vásárhely, Tüskevár, Somlójenő, Apácatorna and Kisberzseny) have been damaged. Altogether, 120 people were severely injured and 400 families had to be evacuated from their homes.
Caritas Hungary assisted the victims from the first day of the disaster, supplying drinking water, medicine, hygiene articles, blankets and hot meals. Emergency offices were set up in Kolontár und in Devecser to coordinate the relief efforts.
A crisis intervention team was also formed within Caritas Hungary in order to organize aid convoys and coordinate the many volunteers who contacted Caritas to help.