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

  • Xinyu Cui / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Giant Penguin, Forest Tower, Glacier Battlefield

    A hydrofoil water taxi in Paris, the Rugby World Cup in Japan, a cyclocross challenge in England, Independence Day celebrations in Mexico, protests in Ecuador and Honduras, a whale rescue in Argentina, and much more.

  • Joe Raedle / Getty

    The Impact of Climate Change on Kivalina, Alaska

    The small village of Kivalina is threatened on several fronts by a warming Arctic climate, as the ground it sits on erodes, and the animals the villagers rely on become more difficult to hunt.

  • Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP / Getty

    Devastated by Dorian: Photos From the Bahamas

    Recent images of the hard-hit islands of the Abacos and Grand Bahama, as residents receive aid, recover what they can, and contemplate their next steps

  • Ulet Ifansasti / Getty

    Fires in Indonesia Blanket Islands and Cities in Smog

    Thick clouds of smoke and haze are blanketing much of Southeast Asia, due to largely illegal efforts to burn thousands of acres to clear land for farms and palm-oil plantations.