Residents began returning to the town in western Hungary flooded with toxic red sludge when a metals plant reservoir burst its banks last week, killing at least nine people, officials said Friday.
About 30 residents were taken to Kolontar in buses from a sports arena in the nearby town of Ajka, where they had been staying since being evacuated, disaster agency spokeswoman Gyorgyi Tottos said.
"Others are returning in their own vehicles from the homes of friends and relatives in the area where they have been staying," Tottos said. About 800 Kolontar residents were evacuated Saturday after authorities said a wall of the reservoir could collapse further, releasing more sludge.
A protective wall of dolomite rock and earth -- 620 meters (610 yards) long, with an average height of 2.7 meters (8.8 feet) -- was built in Kolontar to shield the area from further spills of red sludge, a highly caustic waste product from making alumina, which is then used to produce aluminum.
Nine people died in the toxic flood and around 50 are still hospitalized, several in serious or life-threatening condition.
Production at the Ajkai Timfoldgyar metals plant belonging to MAL Rt., or the Hungarian Aluminum Production and Trade Co., was scheduled to restart Friday, but was delayed.
"Preparations to restart the plant are still in place and the plan it to go ahead as soon as possible," said Timea Petroczi, a spokeswoman for Gyorgy Bakondi.
Bakondi and an 18-member committee were named by the government to supervise all aspects of MAL Rt. and have decisive say in all company decisions. On Monday, parliament approved a bill for the government to take temporary control of MAL Rt. because of its involvement in the sludge spill.
Petroczi said talks between the committee and plant officials were taking place to complete the restart process.
Environmental group Greenpeace, however, said it was too early to send residents back into Kolontar and requested that the government postpone the restart of the alumina plant because there was not enough data yet on the area's safety.
"The exact causes of last week's red sludge catastrophe still have not been clarified," Greenpeace Hungary said.