On Oct. 4, officials in the small Hungarian village of Kolontar evacuated around 800 residents over fears that the walls of a toxic reservoir at the nearby Ajkai alumina plant were about to collapse. The next day, the dam burst, releasing a 6-ft.-high (2 m) wave of toxic red sludge through Kolontar and two other villages. The deadly torrent of iron oxides killed eight people, contaminated more than 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of farmland and seeped into the Danube.
2010 Pictures of the Year
Attack of the Sludge, LIFE MAGAZINE
The damaged reservoir of an aluminum oxide plant is seen from the air near the village of Kolontar, Hungary, on October 11. Nearby towns were evacuated after the reservoir burst and red toxic mud flooded the streets in a wave that reached up to seven feet high. At least nine people were killed, and the toxic waste -- including arsenic and other poisons -- killed all life in the local Marcal River.