3rd December

accident

1984: Bhopal chemical

This was one of the world's worst industrial accidents.

Thousand of people have died from the effects of toxic gases which leaked from a chemical factory near the central Indian city of Bhopal.

The accident happened in the early hours of this morning at the Americanowned Union Carbide Pesticide Plant three miles (4.8 km) from Bhopal. Mr Y P Gokhale, managing director of Union Carbide in India, said that methyl isocyanate gas (MIC) had escaped when a valve in the plant's underground storage tank broke under pressure.

This caused a deadly cloud of lethal gas to float from the factory over Bhopal, which is home to more than 900,000 people - many of whom live in slums. Chaos and panic broke out in the city and surrounding areas as tens of thousands of people attempted to escape.

Bhopal resident, Ahmed Khan, said: "We were choking and our eyes were burning. We could barely see the road through the fog, and sirens were blaring.
"We didn't know which way to run. Everybody was very confused.

Mothers didn't know their children had died, children didn't know their mothers had died and men didn't know their whole families had died."
"

The Union Carbide factory was closed immediately after the accident and three senior members of staff arrested
.

Medical and scientific experts have been dispatched to the scene and the Indian government has ordered a judicial inquiry.

Nearly 5000 people died from the effects of the poisonous gas in the days following the disaster.

• The tragedy occurred when 40 tones of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) leaked from the pesticide facilities of the Union Carbide Corporation located in Bhopal.

• Estimates say that some 50,000 people were treated in the first few days suffering terrible sideeffects, including blindness, kidney and liver failure. • Campaigners say nearly 20,000

• The gases that leaked not only burned the tissues of their eyes and lungs but also poisoned their blood stream and other internal organs. Many who died did not even know what hit them as they suffocated to death on their beds while others went running out on to the

In 1989 Union Carbide, which is now a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, paid the Indian Government £470m in a settlement which many described as woefully inadequate.

• But in 1999 a voluntary group in Bhopal which believed not enough had been done to help victims, filed a lawsuit in the United States claiming Union Carbide violated international

• Union Carbide, which merged with Dow Jones in the year, 2001, has neither taken firm responsibility nor been able to answer the questions related to this horrific tragedy. It still remains a mystery as to why the their operationsadopted twostate of of company in the American sets West Virginia had anstandards while puttingin place, the facility in advanced computerized system up their Bhopal was outdated to say the least. Faulty and defective factories.

refrigeration and valve and vent lines had been left unattended for a period of two years when the disaster took place. Also, the amount of MIC stored in West Virginia was 5000 gallons as compared to the 30, 000 gallons that had been piled up at Bhopal. Local authorities were also kept in the dark about the dangers of an MIC leak leave alone the matter of making provisions for antidotes.

There is a case pending against the corporation on the charges of death, not amounting to murder though the above facts point clearly to a culpable offence. Why should Union Carbide have taken such great care to protect its American plant and shown so much indifference to its plant in a developing country like India? Is it because life is very cheap here or that some countries (read America) are more equal than others?

In November 2002 India said it was seeking the extradition of former Union Carbide boss Warren Anderson from the US. Mr Anderson faces charges of "culpable homicide" for costcutting at the plant which is alleged to have compromised safety standards.

In October 2004, the Indian Supreme Court approved a compensation plan drawn up by the state welfare commission to pay nearly $350m to more than 570,000 victims of the disaster.

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