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

  • Carl Court / Getty, Francisco Seco / AP

    A Pair of Fiery Festivals

    In the past couple of days, festivals were held in two villages separated by language, culture, religion, and great distance, but both centered on the use of fire as a method of purification and blessing.

  • NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran

    Gorgeous Images of the Planet Jupiter

    In its 10th orbit around Jupiter, NASA’s Juno spacecraft is returning amazing images of the gas giant that are being made even more incredible by citizen scientists here on Earth.

  • Geoff Robins / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Snowy Sahara, Dancing Devils, Cryptocurrency J-Pop

    The Singapore Zoo shows off its babies, ice blankets in the U.S., fog drifts in the U.K., Saudi Arabia opens its first automotive showroom solely for women, and much more.

  • Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty

    Photos of California's Deadly Mudslides

    Hillsides scorched by wildfires last month unleashed mudslides under heavy rainfall north of Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Join the Discussion