Bhopal gas tragedy recalled on 28th anniversary
Twenty-eight years after the world's worst industrial disaster hit Bhopal, where toxic fumes from a pesticide factory leaked into the air claiming thousands of lives, victims and survivors of the tragedy on Monday, recalled the horrors of the fateful night when their world changed forever in a matter of minutes.
According to official estimate about 3,500 people had died after the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal accidentally released toxic gases into the air, but activists say nearly 25,000 people died in the immediate aftermath and the years that followed and their kin are still waiting for the justice.
Laxmibai, a victim, recalls the agony of the fateful night on December 3, 1984 when the pesticide factory owned by U.S. multinational Union Carbide accidentally released about 40 metric tonnes of deadly methyl isocyanate gas in the atmosphere.
"I felt a burning sensation in my eyes, like chillies entering the eye. We fell on the ground after that. I still feel breathless and experience severe pain in my back," she said.
The wind carried the gas to surrounding areas - mainly densely populated slums - exposing around half a million people.
People woke up coughing and vomiting and many reported a severe burning sensation in their eyes and chest.
A visibly irate victim, Gafoor Khan, blasted the government for failing to take care of the survivors.
"We are still troubled; I feel pain in the chest, while climbing the stairs. We do not get any medicines either," Khan said.
According to activists, about 100,000 people who were exposed to the gas now suffer from ailments that range from cancer, blindness and birth defects.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan said that it was time to learn from the mistakes of the 1984 industrial disaster to ensure that such accidents are not repeated anywhere else.
"Today is a day to pledge and learn a lesson from the fateful night of the Bhopal gas leak, so that no other city becomes another Bhopal," he said.
Dow Chemical, which bought Union Carbide in 2001, has repeatedly denied any responsibility for victims and survivors of the tragedy and has refused the government's demand to increase a USD 470-million compensation package that Union Carbide paid to victims in 1989.
Activists and lawyers representing the affected people say the plant site has not been cleaned up and thousands of tonnes of toxic chemical waste have seeped into the soil over the years, contaminating groundwater that is drinking water for around 20,000 people.
A recent study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), has confirmed the presence of toxic chemicals in drinking water and says it is slowly poisoning thousands more people.