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DEVECSER, Hungary: Aid to victims of a toxic mud spill that killed nine people in Hungary last week came from all directions on Thursday, as the plant behind the disaster prepared to resume production.
The Erste Bank announced that "victims of the disaster who had a mortgage on their house will be given a six-month moratorium."
"During this period, clients will not have to make any payments either on the interest or on the mortgage," the bank said.
This followed a call for compromise on the part of banks by the Hungarian Financial Supervisory Authority, which has set up a legal office to provide assistance to those affected by the disaster free of charge.
"Clients who have lost property on which they had taken out a mortgage for a loan are reaching a desperate situation," it noted on its website.
Erste Bank was however the only bank to postpone payments.
Hungarian authorities announced meanwhile that victims of the toxic spill would be able to have new documents - such as identity cards and driving licences - immediately and free of charge from the municipal office in Ajka, near the site of the October 4 catastrophe.
And the Central European University in Budapest, set up by Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros, told AFP it had sent several hundred mobile phones with pre-paid SIM cards to the families affected by the toxic wave that swept through the two small towns of Devecser and Kolontar.
With the threat of another spill averted, authorities said evacuated villagers could start returning home on Friday even as the plant behind the disaster resumes production.
"The residents of Kolontar will start returning home starting Friday at noon," the head of the regional disaster relief services, Tibor Dobson, told AFP.
The alumina plant in Ajka, where a breached reservoir caused the deadly toxic spill, will also resume production on Friday at noon (1000 GMT), national disaster chief Gyorgy Bakondi said on Thursday.
About 800 people, almost the entire population of Kolontar, were evacuated early last Saturday after fears of a second spill from the plant.
A second dam has since been built to protect the small village from a new wave of toxic mud.
On Thursday Prime Minister Viktor Orban and President Pal Schmitt called on Hungarians to contribute to a government solidarity fund to finance reconstruction in the disaster area, in a letter to be sent to all Hungarian households.
"They are asking everyone to join the common effort to help the victims of this accident," Orban's spokesman Peter Szijjarto told journalists.
So far the fund has collected some 200 million forint (730,000 euros, one million dollars), he said.
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