PM Orban meets European Jewish Congress leaders

Budapest, April 3 (MTI) – Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Sunday received the leaders of the European Jewish Congress, whose annual meeting is currently held in Budapest.

Orban and the Jewish leaders, including Moshe Kantor, the Congress’s President, Serge Cwajgenbaum, the Secretary General, and Raya Kalenova, Deputy Secretary General, urged dialogue between the European Union and religious groups, Peter Szijjarto, the PM’s spokesman, told MTI. The leaders asked Orban to help support the strengthening of such a dialogue.

Peter Feldmajer, the head of the federation of Hungarian Jewish communities Mazsihisz, and Gusztav Zoltai, the chief executive of Mazsihisz, also attended the meeting with Orban, Szijjarto said.¨


All sludge flood victims to be compensated by June, says official

Budapest, April 3 (MTI) – All victims of last year’s toxic sludge disaster in Hungary will be fully compensated by the end of June, Gyorgy Bakondi, the government commissioner in charge of disaster management, told MTI on Sunday, on the six-month anniversary of the tragedy.

Bakondi said the October 4 incident — a reservoir burst at an alumina plant in western Hungarian causing nearby villages to be flooded by toxic red sludge — had destroyed hundreds of homes. Ten people were killed in the disaster and over 120 received hospital treatment.

Bakondi said all the victims will have received either new accommodation or financial compensation from the government — according to their choice — by June. The overall damage is estimated at 10 billion forints (EUR 38m).

He said 21 new homes had since been built in Kolontar and 87 in Devecser, two of the villages worst hit by the spill. About 40 percent of damaged and irreparable homes had been levelled in Devecser.

Rehabilitation of farmland and the Torna stream is still under way, and containing the spilt red sludge has been completed on a 100-hectare area, Bakondi said. Protective dams have been built to protect those who still live in the area, he added.

The faulted alumina plant, Mal Zrt, went back online at the end of February. It is operating under state supervision for the next two years using a new dry technology, Bakondi said. The firm provides 6,000 jobs to locals, he noted, adding it is crucial that the plant should not be shut down.

He said that a bill proposing that companies using hazardous materials should pay 0.1 percent of their revenues into a disaster prevention fund is soon to go before parliament.