A forest affected by a flood of corrosive sludge

Neither art installation nor photographic effect, this is the high-tide mark left by a million cubic metres of corrosive sludge that burst the banks of an industrial reservoir in Ajka, Hungary, in October 2010. Sweeping across farmland and through the villages of Kolontár and Devecser in waves up to 2 metres high, the red deluge swept cars off roads and damaged houses, before spilling into the river Torna, a tributary of the Danube. At least seven people were killed, over 100 injured, and many more displaced.

Visiting the site six months later, Spanish photographer Palíndromo Mészáros documented the effect on the landscape in a series of images. The breached reservoir held caustic waste from a local plant that refined bauxite ore into an aluminium oxide known as alumina, the basic ingredient for manufacturing aluminium. Chief among the components of this by-product was iron oxide – hence the rust-red staining – but it also contained highly alkaline sodium hydroxide, used to dissolve aluminium oxide. Learn more here.

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