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Danube fears eased but sludge death toll rises

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Danube fears eased but sludge death toll rises


The catastrophic effects of the toxic spill in the Danube’s tributaries have not been carried downstream to the great river itself, easing many people’s fears.

Hungarian officials say alkaline levels in the Danube are “normal” and the small levels of pollution that entered the river will dilute in a few kilometres.

Upstream too, closer to the scene of the sludge spill, there’s also optimism.

“The situation is still under control,” said Istvan Kling, Deputy Secretary for Water Affairs. “We have to prepare for a long-term protection effort. Possibly the amount of chemicals added to the water will also be reduced.”

Technology, said the minister, meant that everything that flowed downstream from that point had a pH level of under 9, which is not considered to be dangerous.

The government has also reassured people about the quality of the drinking water supply and food chain.

But its conclusions about the ecological dangers have been contested by Greenpeace, which has taken its own test samples from the sludge close to the burst reservoir of the alumina plant.

“We don’t understand what the authorities say, that it’s not dangerous, it’s safe,” said Zsolt Szegfalvi of Greenpeace Hungary. “What our details show us (is that) it’s a dangerous material outside and the level of such elements are really high.”

The human cost of the sludge spill is increasing. The number of people confirmed dead has risen to seven.

Among the latest victims, 79 year old man caught by the toxic tide earlier this week died from his injuries in hospital.

On Thursday Hungary requested aid from the EU, asking for between three and five environmental experts to help with the aftermath of the spill.

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