1984 Bhopal, India Industrial Accident - TMalmay
Poison gas leak may have killed 1,000 By HARBAKSH SINGH NANDA Associated Press Writer BHOPAL, India (AP) - As many as 1,000 people, mostly children, are feared dead from the poisonous gas leak at a U.S.-bullt pesticide plant here, doctors said today, calling the incident the worst such disaster on record. Authorities said 600 bodies had been found, and police teams were searching for more in Bhopal and nearby towns today as relatives flocked to mass burials and cremations in the central Indian city of 895,000. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi told reporters after a tour of the stricken city that his government would in future not allow production of "dangerous" material in heavily populated areas. "There will be an overall government policy change," he said. The doctors, working at Bhopal's Hamedia Hospital, said the accident was expected to cause severe long- run health problems to the estimated 20,000 townspeople who are suffering from gas inhalation. , Dr. Parveen Chaudhury said there was a danger that the survivors may lose their eyesight. Surviving women may not be able to have children, he said. Another doctor, S.K. Trivedi, said the gas inhalation may also cause blood circulation problems. Authorities, meanwhile, ordered the Union Carbide Corp. to pay compensation to the victims. The leak of methyl isocyanate gas affected an estimated 20,000 residents of Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh state about 370 miles south of New Delhi, and triggered a mass exodus from the city. Bhopal was almost a ghost town with most offices and businesses closed today, an officially declared day of mourning. Streets were littered with carcasses of water buffalo, dogs and birds. Survivors attended mass burials and mass cremations. The deadly white cloud of gas had cleared but air samples tested today were found to still contain deposits of the deadly gas. Police and army trucks were picking up bodies from a roughly nine mile radius around the Union Carbide plant, where state Chief Minister Arjun Singh said one of three underground tanks leaked the deadly gas for 40 minutes early Monday. He told reporters the number of deaths was likely to rise and said it was unlikely the plant would be allowed to reopen at its site in the heart of Bhopal. Singh also said five plant officials - all Indians - were arrested charges of negligence. A majority of the Union Carbide's stock in India is owned by Indians. Thomas Sprick, spokesman for the U.S.-based Union Carbide Corp. in Danbury, Conn., said the gas that leaked was methyl isocyanate, which he said can be fatal if inhaled or swallowed. The United News of India earlier had called the gas methyl iso cyanide. Sprick said filters that should have removed the poison from the gas before it leaked did not function and the company did not know the reason for the failure.