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Hungary plant that leaked toxic sludge to reopen

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Hungarian sludge plant to reopen
  • NEW: The head of the plant, who was arrested Monday, is released pending trial
  • Nine people have been killed by the toxic spill
  • Red sludge flows from the plant into villages and the Danube River

Devecser, Hungary (CNN) -- The aluminum plant at the heart of the deadly toxic red sludge spill in Hungary will resume production at the end of the week, government officials said Wednesday.

And the chief executive of the plant, who was arrested on Monday, has been released pending trial, his lawyer Janos Banati said.

Zoltan Bakonyi, the chief executive of the MAL aluminum plant, was detained Monday, accused of public endangerment and harming the environment, authorities said.

The announcement came on the same day officials said a ninth person had died from the toxic spill.

The European Union said Wednesday the rescue phase of the operation has concluded.

The main priority is now is cleaning up, said Laurent de Pierrefeu, an EU official on the ground at the scene of the spill.

The red sludge leaked from a reservoir at the plant in Hungary and streamed through villages and into the Danube, Europe's second largest river.

Video: Devecser's residents reflect on futures

The plant will be guarded by police and will be monitored by the government, the country's disaster relief commissioner said at a news conference Wednesday.

Workers in Hungary have been racing to build three emergency dams to stem an expected second toxic spill from the plant.

Some 500,000 cubic meters of toxic red sludge is in the plant's reservoir, whose wall shows signs of ruptures and cracks, said Gyorgi Tottos, a spokeswoman with Hungary's emergency services department.

Officials say it's only a matter of time before the wall breaks and spews the sludge across the landscape, she said.

The amount of sludge that remains in the reservoir is about half the amount that spilled out more than week ago, inundating three villages and leaving the landscape covered in red.

Crews were also trying to remove a layer of liquid from the top of the sludge in the reservoir in order to make the mud less mobile if the wall breaks.

The aluminum company said in a statement Saturday it was doing its utmost "to avoid further damages and to reinforce the injured deposit."

The company said it has performed extensive maintenance work and renovations in the past decade and had followed safety regulations.

It has also established a relief fund for victims of the spill and was attempting to help in finding accommodations for residents who were evacuated.

About 800 people had to leave the village of Kolontar, downstream from the reservoir, and hundreds of soldiers were ready to rescue inhabitants of a nearby village if the wall collapses.

CNN's Tommy Evans and James Partington contributed to this report.