Europe

Living with Hungary's toxic sludge

Image caption Marc Beune's factory before and after the spill

Engineers in Hungary are racing to finish an emergency dam, after a breach which has caused a devastating toxic spill.

Villages around the site of the alumina plant near Ajka, western Hungary, have been affected, with residents of neighbouring Kolontar evacuated.

Marc Beune and his wife left Holland to set up a textiles production company in nearby Devecser in 2008. Their factory building was in the path of the toxic spill.

"The strain is beginning to tell on us"

Our company is in Devecser, which is one of the villages affected by the toxic spill.

Last weekend our building was hit by the red mud. There was about 5cm worth on the floors of the factory, and more outside.

It has been very difficult, but I have asked my team of 100 to stick with us and they have.

Of course, the safest thing to do is to tell everyone to get out, but on the other hand we have a business to run, which is feeding 100 families.

It is a difficult situation for my employees, who are not well off financially.

We are just trying to balance up personal health and business risks.

So from Monday to Wednesday of last week we cleaned the mud. We were told that the risk to safety was limited if you didn't touch the stuff, so we wore protective clothing.

We are now awaiting the decision of the panel of scientists. If they think that it would be a health hazard to stay here, then we will leave.

When I listen to the Hungarian people, they have no expectation that help will come from the government.

We could do with some advice on how to deal with the spill - should we be wearing masks? Can we smoke?

Official communication is not so strong. The government is downplaying the extent of the catastrophe, so most people are going on rumour.

To make matters worse, five of our employees have lost their houses completely in Devecser and Kolontar. We are doing our utmost to help them out with volunteers from our company.

The situation is extremely stressful. At the beginning of the week, we were getting by on adrenaline, but the strain is beginning to tell on us.