The victims of the environmental disaster dubbed the “chemical Hiroshima” have been remembered, 20 years later. At least 15,000 people died in the wake of a massive leak from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in the Indian city of Bhopal. The pain and anger at the spill remain fresh, with the American firm saying it bears no responsibility for what happened. More than 500,000 people are said to have been affected when nearly 40 tonnes of lethal gas escaped from a vat at the plant in the centre of Bhopal.
The factory is now being left to rot. Up to 25,000 tonnes of toxic waste remain inside. Activists are pressurising the government to demand the company clean up the city. The spillage happened just after midnight on December 3rd, 1984. Victims described the methyl isocyanate searing their eyes, causing them to vomit blood and froth at the mouth.
Since then thousands have died of lung cancer, kidney failure and liver disease. Compensation for the dead was just 1,600 euros, while much of the cash for those who survived has been caught up in bureaucratic red tap. The legacy of the spill remains in the ground too – experts say well water contains up to 500 times the maximum level of contaminants.