Hungary Firm Head Detained Over Toxic Sludge

Police detained the director of the aluminum company responsible for a flood of caustic red sludge that killed at least seven people when it burst from its reservoir last week.

DEVECSER, Hungary (AP) -- Police have detained the director of the aluminum company responsible for a flood of caustic red sludge that killed at least seven people when it burst from its reservoir last week, Hungary's prime minister said Monday.

Police said they were questioning managing director Zoltan Bakonyi on suspicion of public endangerment and environmental damage.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban told parliament that the government wanted to take over MAL Rt., the Hungarian Aluminum Production and Trade Company, because the safe restart of production at the alumina plant was needed to save the jobs of thousands of workers.

Orban said his administration was also freezing the company's assets to ensure that funds were available to compensate for the damages caused by the disaster.

"Since this is not a natural catastrophe but the damage was brought about by people, the damages must be paid first and foremost not by taxpayers but by those who caused the damage," Orban told lawmakers.

On Sunday, MAL Rt. said it was willing to pay compensation "in proportion to its responsibility" for the damage caused by the deluge.
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