‘The Government has fulfilled its commitments so far, and we will solve everybody’s problems by 4 October, the first anniversary of the disaster,’ Sándor Pintér said on his ministerial visit to the disaster-stricken region.

Victims of the red sludge disaster invited the government delegation into their new homes in Devecser and Kolontár. Sándor Pintér was accompanied by Minister of State for Government Communication Zoltán Kovács, Director-General of the National Directorate General for Disaster Management at the Ministry of Internal Affairs György Bakondi, and Head of Operations at the National Directorate General for Disaster Management at the Ministry of Internal Affairs Tibor Dobson. They visited newly-built homes, some of which had already been occupied by residents.

Kolontár (photo: Gergely Botár)

In the press conference held after the site visit, the Minister of State for Government Communication said that the efforts of the past nine months have been exemplary. Mr. Kovács said that nine months and ten days earlier a dam in Devecser had ruptured, and more than 1.5 million cubic metres of red sludge had flooded the villages in the area.

The disaster claimed ten lives, several hundred people were injured, and 360 houses were in some way affected by the disaster, he said. Of these houses, 306 had to be demolished, but new houses have been built in Kolontár (21) and Devecser (90). The Minister of State emphasised that the Government was able to fulfil its commitments: ‘We have proved to the country and the world,’ he said, ‘that we have been able to cope with Hungary's largest ever industrial and ecological catastrophe.’ Mr. Pintér noted that ‘After the disaster, few people said that within nine months we would be able to rebuild Devecser and Kolontár. However, this is what we decided to do – the Government issued its decision and has kept its word.’

Sándor Pintér and Zoltán Kovács (Photo: Gergely Botár)

‘The residential areas built here show that solidarity produces results,’ he added, and then went on: ‘Devecser and Kolontár have been declared disadvantaged settlements, which means that the Government will continue to support the people living here.’

The Minister expressed thanks for this solidarity, and that everybody – be they administrative personnel, construction workers or volunteers – had kept their commitments. ‘I would like this solidarity to set an example, not only in times of disaster, but also in our daily lives,’ he said.

In response to a journalist's question about compensation for businesses, Mr. Pintér announced that European Union permission is required for this. He said that the necessary approval for non-agricultural enterprises had already been received from Brussels, so that those in this category will begin to be paid the following week. It is hoped that approvals necessary for agricultural compensation will also arrive within the next two weeks.

The Director-General of the National Directorate General for Disaster Management at the Ministry of Internal Affairs said that the Act on disaster prevention and management to be debated by Parliament already contains all the experience and lessons obtained in course of this disaster management exercise.

‘We are sure,’ said Mr. Bakondi, ‘that what has been experienced here will enable the Government to do everything possible to ensure that a similar disaster will never occur in the future.’