By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Kolontar, Hungary
Listen to BosNewsLife/Deutsche Welle Radio’s report on Kolontar and click hungaryreportnow

A painted portrait and empty child stroller is all that remains of 14-months-old Angyalka, who drowned in village of Kolontar in the burning sludge flood of the nearby aluminum plant on October 4, 2010.

KOLONTAR, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Some villagers pause to remember, or pray, around a memorial to those who died a year ago in Hungary’s worst ever chemical disaster on record. On October 4, 2010, over 184 million gallons (700,000 cubic meters)  of red sludge from an alumina plant’s broken reservoir flooded this Hungarian village of Kolontar and nearby towns, 150 kilometers west of Budapest.


Farmotel Stefania is on the way to Slovenian and Croatian Adriatic sea coast.

Ten people died and 150 others were injured in the area, where some red-colored streets and cars with red dust provide constant reminders of last year’s accident.

On Tuesday, October 4, Hungarian government officials briefly visited this village before moving onto their next assignment.

Authorities boost about a massive clean-up effort in Kolontar.  Yet women, who say they still suffer of painful memories,  franticly sweep streets near an empty land they call “an ecumenical memorial park”.

It was here where homes of their loves ones stood.


Over 300 families lost houses in the deadly torrent of toxic waste which also devastated  an area of about 15 miles (40 square kiliometers).

Among those killed was an elderly man and his sister whose bodies were found about a mile away (1.6 kilometers), an elderly couple and their daughter, a man who tried to rescue his friends, and…a baby.

Fourteen-months-old Angyalka – meaning angel – drowned in the toxic wave of red sludge.

Her mother, Erzsebet Juhasz Zoltanne,  still has her picture and the child’s stroller next to her when watching television. Juhasz Zoltanne, 30, now lives with her husband and three surviving children in one of the 100 new homes built by the government.

She says her faith in God helps her to heal the wounds of the disaster. But she often cries when asked about the day that painful substance reached her home.

Pregnant Kolontar resident Erzsebet Juhasz Zoltanne, 30, explains how she lost her 14-months-old baby girl Angyalka, which means "Angel" when "up to two-meters high red mud" from the aluminum plant inundated her home. Agnes R. Bos for BosNewsLife

“All of a sudden, there was a wave of toxic mud entering the house through the windows,” she told BosNewsLife, showing burns on her body. “I started to look for the small baby in the mud with my bare hands. But I couldn’t find the baby anymore. And the wave was coming and coming,” Juhasz Zoltanne recalled.


“My husband told that we should urgently run upstairs. Later, in about three hours, were were taken out of thehouse…But my baby was found only the next day, dead, in the mud.”

Church bells rang Tuesday, October 4, for Angyalka and nine others who passed away.

Across the street, farmer Janos Fuchs, who now suffers from cancer, lost his elderly mother in the tragedy.  He and his wife were among those who received new homes from the government.

But the tears and nightmares remain, he explained, while holding a sludge damaged embroidered picture made by his 82-year-old mother before she drowned. “I never forget the day that I drove on my tractor and I waved to my mother. It was the last time I saw her,” he said, his voice trembling.

Soon after, “while working the land, I saw what appeared to be a tsunami of red mud.” That was toxic sludge, a by-product of aluminum production.”I saw another flood wave about two meters high. Because I was on a tractor, I managed to find higher ground and was able to survive this way.” Not everyone was lucky, he recalled.


“I saw a man who tried to save his friends wife and her daugther.  Even he drowned in his jeep vehicle.  I searched frantically for my mother, but she too died in the mud,” Fuchs said.

The town’s struggling farmers have only just started working their lands again, BosNewsLife observed. After removing most of the sludge, local authorities provided them with new fields to plant their crops.

Yet, environmentalists remain concerned about the long term impact of the disaster. Hard working residents who lost their loved ones say it’s little satisfaction that the owner of the Ajka Alumina plant was fined nearly $650 million because of the disaster.

They say nothing in the world can ever compensate for the lives that were lost.


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