Roughly a decade ago, the biggest catastrophe in the history of aluminium industry had occurred, when on 4 October 2010, the dam of MAL Hungarian Aluminium company’s red mud lake collapsed next to a village, Kolontár and a little town, called Devecser. As a consequence, ten people lost their lives, and around 150 were injured. Besides that, the tragedy’s environmental damages were just inestimable. My article is favouring those who are interested in disaster tourism, as the depth of this inconceivable event will touch everyone visiting here. In the town of Devecser, even a permanent exhibition is commemorating the red mud tsunami, of which terrible news flooded the world press in a blink of an eye, back in 2010.
The toxic alkaline effluent rapidly swamped Kolontár and Devecser by 1-2-meter-high waves. One of the biggest traps of the happening for the neighbouring citizens was the unawareness of this hazardous material’s characteristics: even though it causes exactly the same wounds on human skin as fire, the first signs appear only after a while. This tremendous destruction affected the vast majority of the neighbourhood within 40 square kilometers. Most of the people, who lost their lives during this terrible industrial accident, drowned in the reddish, corrosive, liquid waste, while others passed away in the hospital of their burn injuries.
Although money is not the best regard to approach all that happened in the Balaton Highlands area (25 kilometers from the pond cave of Tapolca) to outline the size of this alumina plant accident, it cost 38 billion Hungarian forints (119 million euros) to the Hungarian government to repair all the damages. Out of that, the restoration of the environmental elements absorbed 21 billion HUF. Moreover, a part of the 6-700 000 m3 red mud got into the Torna creek, of which whole flora and fauna died off at the affected area. As for agriculture, farmers will be unable to grow anything at least for 30 years, on that 800 hectares of land flooded with mud, according to the director of WWF Hungary.
To evoke the catastrophe and express your sympathy to locals, you can visit a permanent exhibition in the Rotary House, Devecser. It commemorates our devoted fellow countrymen who immediately went to help the victims, and it also follows along the process of the reconstruction. In the exhibition, you will have a chance to watch a short movie about the first hours of the disaster, while in addition, photographs and preserved items will help you recall the tragedy. Still, the exhibition’s main message is that we, Hungarians, have a country that never lets their own down in any case.
The exhibition, by the way, is free, and it can be visited in Devecser, primarily within working hours (M-F 8h-16h). They have visitors from all over the world, including every single continent. The guest book contains Chinese, Japanese but also Arabic texts, that were written to drop a comforting line in sympathy and condolences. In the tragic red mud tsunami, 250 homes were completely destroyed, while 1000 people became poverty-stricken. Some would rather forget, but the Rotary House will surely be commemorating the catastrophe and even more the uplifting collaboration of the people who helped those in need.
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