A Flood of Red Sludge, One Year Later

On October 4, 2010, the retaining wall of a caustic waste reservoir at the Ajka alumina plant near Kolontar, Hungary, collapsed, releasing more than one million cubic meters (38 million cubic feet) of highly alkaline red sludge. The thick wave of waste material flooded several nearby villages, killing 10 people, injuring more than 120, and leaving many with chemical burns on their skin. The sludge eventually found its way into local rivers, killing many animals. One year later, damaged buildings have been razed, much of the land has been cleaned up, and MAL Hungarian Aluminum has been fined $647 million (472 million euros) for environmental damages. Today, monitoring shows lower toxicity than many had feared, but the levels are still dangerous. Gathered here are older and recent images from the disaster, including five before-and-after photo pairs (starting with photo number 15) that you can click to see the difference a year can make.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Adam Rhew / Charlotte Magazine / Reuters

    2016: The Year in Photos, September–December

    Time to take a look back at some of the most memorable events and images of 2016. Among the events covered in this essay: the U.S. presidential election; continued wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen; a new view of the planet Jupiter; and much more.

  • Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

    2016: The Year in Photos, May-August

    Time to take a look back at some of the most memorable events and images of 2016. Among the events covered in this essay: the Summer Olympics in Rio, the U.S. Republican and Democratic national conventions, the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, and much more.

  • Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

    2016: The Year in Photos, January-April

    Time to take a look back at some of the most memorable events and images of 2016. Among the events covered in this essay: earthquakes in Ecuador and Taiwan, the passing of entertainers David Bowie and Prince, and much more.

  • Jonathan Bachman / Reuters

    Top 25 News Photos of 2016

    The past 12 months have been an eventful time for news stories, from the unpredictable and tumultuous U.S. presidential election, to continued war and terror and refugees fleeing to Europe, to a historic World Series win for the Chicago Cubs, and so much more.

Join the Discussion