Hungarian Red Cross’s response to the red sludge disaster

Activity report for the period of 7– 14 October 2010

The Hungarian Red Cross (HRC) has launched a national fundraising campaign to help people affected by the red sludge disaster. HRC expects mainly non-perishable food, hygiene materials and protective gears (boots, masks, gloves). A hotline (1749) was set up, which gives HUF 200 (the total cost) for each call or SMS to support Hungarian Red Cross relief program.  So far, 777 thousand calls were received and 155 million HUF has been collected through this hotline. HRC has received a vast amount of goods in kind and HUF 38.689.818 cash donations accumulated on the assigned bank account. One taxi company – Taxi “6×6” – and several small entrepreneurs are helping HRC in the logistics.

HRC is involved with 20-30 volunteers and 4 vans day by day in the affected area. National authorities (Ambulance, Fire brigade, the Army and the National Directorate General of Disaster Management) are involved with 1200 staff daily in the comprehensive relief work in Devecser, Kolontar and Somlovasarhely. This number was cut back to 800 on the 14 October due to the termination of high alert state of Devecser. Troops assisting in the evacuation of the town were sent back home.

Currently the Disaster Management authorities and the military are working on the relief and the clean-up of affected territories. All remaining reservoirs in the area are under surveillance and are subject to continuous monitoring. On the 9 October (Saturday) a crack was noticed between the 9th and the 10th tanks which widened until the 11 October (Monday). At the moment, the crack is 50 to 70 cm wide, but is stable, and has not got bigger since Monday. A defense dyke was completed by the 14 October which aims to divert the sludge spilled from the 9th tank away from Kolontar.


Beyond delivering emergency relief, HRC also provided meals for local inhabitants and relief workers upon request from the Disaster Management authorities as they were lacking capacities on that. However, HRC did not receive similar request from the military, as they are able to organize meals on their own logistics. One member of HRC has been taking part in the search for those missing.

Until the 9 October (Saturday) a temporary store of HRC was kept in Kolontar, but at 5 a.m. the whole village was evacuated due to preventive security reasons. The leadership of the Disaster Management authorities, which operated in the House of Culture situated on a hill in Kolontar, were also moved to Devecser. Although we still have a store in Kolontar, the access to it is rather difficult. The total of 550 people from the village were originally intended to be housed in Ajka at 3 places, but as most of them found refuge with relatives or friends, therefore only one place was needed for those 12 remaining people. The shelter was set up for them in the Sports Hall of Ajka. One shift of the fire brigade was also housed in the hall, where meals are provided by the local authority.

Sunday, on the 10 October 25 families moved back at their own risk to that part of the village which was unaffected by the disaster.


200 people left Devecser as they were worried about further sludge spill. In Devecser they are ready for quick evacuation in case of an emergency. On the 4 October the Disaster Management authorities did not ask for HRC assistance as they could not designate concrete tasks because according to their information other NGO’s were handling the situation. However, by Friday (8 October) this has proved wrong, therefore HRC immediately alerted neighbouring County Branches who mobilized 60 volunteers to Devecser by Saturday. Their tasks were the same as in Kolontar. The temporary store was placed in nearby Esterhazy chattel. Further storage places are established by courtesy of the Disaster Management authorities to house the stock of incoming donated goods, while they had no capacity to deal with the above.

The local government of Devecser also launched a fundraising campaign on a specified bank account.

As of the 14th October the high alert state was cancelled in Devecser.

Fact sheet