Saturday, December 03, 2005

December 3, 1984 - Bhopal, India

On this day in 1984 in the early morning hours, the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India began to leak a deadly cloud of methyl isocyanate into the air. By the time that plant workers discovered the leak, about one hour after it began, it was too late for some 2000 people killed outright, 600,000 injured and for more than 6000 who have died since from a variety of ailments brought on by inhaling the toxic cloud.

Local offials were never told of the possible effects on their people that some of the chemicals being handled and produced in the factory might cause. In addition, local officials had never been informed nor trained in some relatively simple techniques that could have saved many lives. Techniques as simple as placing a wet towel over one's mouth.

Union Carbide ultimately settled with the Indian government and paid a total of $470,000,000 (cab fare in the United States) which worked out to about $1300 per death and about $550 per injured person. However, in the 21 years that have passed since the easily preventable accident, half of the money has still not been paid by the Indian government to survivors or victims' families.

In addition, Union Carbide has never cleaned up the site. The factory sits today, a rusting hulk which still bleeds deadly chemicals into the air and ground water. Well, I guess if corrupt Indian officials don't care anything about their own people, why should Union Carbide? I guess.


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