MAL Hungarian Aluminium Producing and Trading Company, the owner of a reservoir at an alumina plant in W Hungary that ruptured on Monday, flooding nearby villages with sludge and killing at least seven people, must be placed under state control and its assets frozen, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in Parliament on Monday.
MAL’s CEO has been taken into custody by the police, Mr Orban said.
Mr Orban proposed establishing the post of a catastrophe protection commissioner that would take over the management of MAL and its assets until the matter of the ruptured reservoir is brought to a close. He urged Parliament to approve the necessary legislation already on Monday.
The task of the commissioner will also be to prepare a proposal on the future of MAL, with a view to compensating people who suffered in the disaster, but not from taxpayers’ money, Mr Orban said. The starting point for deciding on the tasks of the commissioner was that the ruptured reservoir was not a natural calamity but a matter of “human negligence”, he added.
Mr Orban said it was “in the public interest” that production restart at the alumina plant and that jobs there be kept safe, but added that steps must be taken to prevent further damage to the environment.
Mr Orban said there was good reason to suspect that some people knew about a dangerous weakening of the reservoir walls, but in their own self interest thought it would not be worthwhile to fix. The question of responsibility has to be reviewed and those responsible named as soon as possible, he added.
MAL said in a statement sent to MTI on Monday that it rejected allegations that the reservoir had earlier sprung leaks or that it was too full. MAL has followed regulations to the letter and always complied with rules, MAL said, adding that it had spent about HUF 30.3bn on maintenance and renovations over the past ten years.
MAL has submitted a report on the operation of the ruptured reservoir to the authorities each year by the deadline, which was April 30 for the last report, the company said.