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1984: Death in Bhopal

A cloud of deadly gas floated over the central Indian city of Bhopal in the early hours of the morning on 3 December 1984.

Within hours of the toxic leak from the nearby Union Carbide factory hundreds of people had died and thousands more required treatment.

Local hospitals were completely overwhelmed and doctors complained they were helpless.

In the days that followed the accident about 3,000 people died in what is still one of the world's worst industrial accidents. Many thousands more are believed to have perished from the effects of the chemical leak.

Your memories:

I was 10 years old and was hospitalised for a few days in nearby city of Sehore along with my mother and sister.

I really didn't get any medical help from anywhere - [just] some basic tablets doctors [used for pain relief].

After some time I stopped going to the doctors and started taking my mother's prescription - sounds funny but it is true.


" Somebody said Pakistan had dropped a nuclear bomb "

Yatish Joshi, USA

I was intellegent enough to undersatnd these doctors had no clue.

So somehow I started recovering from eye pains and chest pain.

I was taking some medicines till 8 standard - that is, for about four years - and started to recovered fully.

I think it was the age factor played a major role in struggling with after-effects. Those who were old or had diseases like asthma or lungs or heart problems were dead on first night or in a few hours.

Anyway on the first night I was sleeping and I remember some people talking loudly outside our building.

Somebody said Pakistan had dropped a nuclear bomb. And as a child I believed it as I saw only military vehicles the next morning.

The aftermath was no less horrible. I got interim money of Rs 200 after few years and then in 1996 Rs 25,000 when I was in collage and the interim money was deducted from that.

My father appealed and the judge revised it by giving 10,000 more . The system was fully corrupt - many timesI had to leave college to attend gas tragedy courts. I am waiting for the second term of money. It may be something like Rs 30,000. So I will be getting Rs 60,000 over the course of 20 years.
Yatish Joshi, USA

I was in grade 4 when this incident happened. Our house was located on a hill and was in the opposite direction of the wind.

And because it was foggy and cold the air did not rise much which was probably a boon for us but a bane for people who were within 5-10 km of the leakage site as that is a low lying area.

My father being a college professor and staying near the student hostels/dorms woke up around 0200 thinking that maybe a student riot had broken out and the police had sprayed tear gas.

Me and my two brothers also woke up. I didn't feel anything strange in the air, but then I never even stepped out of my bed.


" My mother was continuously vomiting, her eyes were red and were watering continuously "

Ashar Ata, USA

Because it was winter all our doors and windows were tightly closed and my parents tugged us back inside our blankets and asked us to go back to sleep.

My mother was continuously vomiting, her eyes were red and were watering continuously. My father in fact went outside from house to house to find out what was going on.

Another thing I remember is when we opened one of our windows we saw a huge traffic of vehicles and people on a road that leads to a highway. This road even during the day time was used by very few people.

Next morning my parents went out to the downtown area and the area near the leakage to find out what happened.

They came back home with horrifying stories and descriptions of the city, with cattle dead everywhere, hospitals piled up (literally) with dead bodies, there were slippers left behind by the people who had left their houses in panic.

But the thing is even while growing up in Bhopal I never realised the intensity and severity of the damage and the fact that it was something that could have been avoided and was not something like a natural disaster.

I am presently in US and am a public health research professional. It is only now that I realise how unfair things are across this globe.

Out here even a sand granule in a burger gets investigated and compensated for.

Just look at the amount of time, attention, research funding, and compensation the Three Mile Island incidence got and if you read the facts of that incidence it was nowhere near to the Bhopal gas tragedy.

Many people in the scientific community here don't even know about the Bhopal incidence. Why?

Me and wife, who also happens to be a researcher, presented a seminar on this subject here at the University of Massachusetts and to our suprise we found that there has been not one serious study done on the effects of the MIC gas on the people living in Bhopal.

There are no records of follow-up of people affected by this incident.

For example I still do not know whether my migraine, my parents' severe migraine, their progressive loss of visual acuity, my father's chronic lymphocytic leukemia, his bipolar disease, hypertension and other health problems are a consequence of that incidence or just a normal occurence because of age.

And these are people who were least affected by that gas leakage. What about the people who actually suffered and are suffering?
Ashar Ata, USA

I was eight years old then. I saw a glimpse of that gruesome incident on TV. My dad closed my eyes and didn't allow me to watch the news with him.

As I peeked through his fingers, I could see tears in both my parents' eyes. Then I knew something terrible had happened.

Recently I presented a paper on this incident in my class at an American University, and one of the questions was about the compensation.

I told them for the death of 3000 people and another 35,000 injured and countless number of premature births and birth defects, it was $450 Million. This is just insane.

If the US can extort $10M for each death in the Lockerbie disaster, then UC and Dow should pay $30 billion for deaths and another $100 billion for rehab.

Just by this incident, every one should know that justice is not equal to all.
Raju, India


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