Hungary's river of death, as seen from space

Here's an aerial view of Hungary's toxic spill, which threatens to become an international environmental disaster, from NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite. Click through for a close-up that shows the devastation more clearly.

Hungary's river of death, as seen from space

Says NASA:

The alumina plant appears along the right edge of both images, and incorporates both bright blue and brick red reservoirs. The breach of the retaining wall is apparent in the close-up view. Sludge cut a channel through the northwest corner of the waste reservoir and spread onto nearby fields.

The sludge forms a red-orange streak running west from the plant. The wide-area view shows the spill thinning but remaining discernible for several kilometers to the west. The New York Times reported that the stream nearest the plant empties into larger rivers. The BBC reported that authorities were pouring plaster into the Marcal River in hopes of preventing the sludge from reaching the Danube River.

The red sludge is a byproduct of refining bauxite into alumina, which is used in the manufacture of aluminum and other products. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) suggested that heavy metals in the sludge could soak into the ground and be absorbed by vegetation, potentially causing environmental effects for decades.

In the short term, the sludge swept away cars, filled homes, swamped agricultural fields, damaged bridges, and forced hundreds to evacuate.