I was AFP’s correspondent at the Kolontar alumina plant disaster in October 2010. My job was to report for two weeks from Kolontar, Ajka and Devecser. My reports featured in the Guardian, France24, Global Journalist, India Times, Hindustan Times and a number of Canadian and Australian dailies.
It was pretty interesting reporting from the scene. I got up nearly every day at 4am and worked until midnight filing breaking news stories. I was often called into the office on short notice so I had to rush up from Devecser to Budapest, only to be sent back down the next morning again.
Breaking News from the Kolontar Disaster
I was the first to lead a team of photographers and a cameraman to the cracked dam, before the official press tour took place. I made contact with a local who knew the countryside roads and he showed me the road to the dam. The next morning I lead a team of photographers and cameramen behind the police and army lines in the dark. Here we waited hours until sunrise to take pictures of the crack.
When the sun rose we approached the crack surrounded by police. While I spoke to the police and army personnel and distracted them, my colleagues could take a dozen good close up photos of the crumbling dam. The police thought we were the official government photographers – you should’ve seen their faces when I told them who I was!
That same day the government had organised a press tour to the dam. I think it was because we broke in and there was no point in hiding the fact any longer. It was apparent that the crack was larger than they said: I could fit in through the crack yet they reported it was only 2 inches wide. At any rate, we got our photos out well before the rest of the press. Listen to the podcast below in which I talk about the disaster with KBIA-NPR radio station in the US.