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

  • Yves Herman / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: Swan Song, Eiffel Climb, Porcelain Starlings

    Tornadoes in Missouri, paratroopers in France, abortion-rights protests in New York City, the Great Wall Marathon in China, a newborn walrus in Germany, and much more

  • Dita Alangkara / AP

    Photos: Deadly Post-election Riots in Indonesia

    Supporters of the presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto took to the streets of Jakarta, clashing violently with riot police, after his loss to incumbent President Joko Widodo was announced on Wednesday.

  • CC BY-SA ESA / Rosetta / NavCam

    The Small Bodies of the Solar System

    Images of asteroids, comets, trans-Neptunian objects, meteors, and more

  • Nhac Nguyen / AFP / Getty

    Buddha Day Celebrations in Photos

    Observations of Vesak, or Buddha Day, from several countries across Asia