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Bhopal Chemical Accident Bhopal Chemical Accident
by The Ovi Team
2021-12-03 08:46:20
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December 3rd, 1984; Thousands of people die from the effects of toxic gases which leaked from Bhopal Union Carbide Factory near the central Indian city of Bhopal. The leak also caused injuries to nearly 250,000 more with over 10,000 have since died from toxic gas related diseases. The cause of the leaks was traced to most of the safety systems not working and the deaths and injuries were caused by exposure to the highly toxic gasses.

Hundreds of people have died from the effects of toxic gases which leaked from a chemical factory near the central Indian city of Bhopal.  The accident happened in the early hours of this morning at the American-owned Union Carbide Pesticide Plant three miles (4.8 km) from Bhopal.

Mr. Y P Gokhale, managing director of Union Carbide in India, said that methyl isocyanine gas (MIC) had escaped when a valve in the plant's underground storage tank broke under pressure.  This caused a deadly cloud of lethal gas to float from the factory over Bhopal, which is home to more than 900,000 people - many of whom live in slums.

indie01_400Chaos and panic broke out in the city and surrounding areas as tens of thousands of people attempted to escape.  More than 20,000 people have required hospital treatment for symptoms including swollen eyes, frothing at the mouth and breathing difficulties.  Thousands of dead cats, dogs, cows and birds litter the streets and the city's mortuaries are filling up fast.

Bhopal resident, Ahmed Khan, said: "We were choking and our eyes were burning. We could barely see the road through the fog, and sirens were blaring. We didn't know which way to run. Everybody was very confused.  Mothers didn't know their children had died, children didn't know their mothers had died and men didn't know their whole families had died."

The Union Carbide factory was closed immediately after the accident and three senior members of staff arrested.  Medical and scientific experts have been dispatched to the scene and the Indian government has ordered a judicial inquiry.

Much speculation arose in the aftermath. The closing of the plant to outsiders (including UCC) by the Indian government, and the failure to make data public contributed to the confusion. The CSIR report was formally released 15 years after the disaster. The authors of the ICMR studies on health effects were forbidden to publish their data until after 1994. UCC has still not released their research about the disaster or the effects of the gas on human health. Soon after the disaster UCC was not allowed to take part in the investigation by the government. The initial investigation was conducted entirely by the government agencies - Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) under the directorship of Dr. Varadajan and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

UCC and the Government of India maintained until 1994, when the International Medical Commission on Bhopal met, that MIC had no long-term health effects.

On December 3, 2004, the twentieth anniversary of the disaster, a man claiming to be a Dow representative named Jude Finisterra was interviewed on the BBC. He claimed that the company had agreed to clean up the site and compensate those harmed in the incident. Immediately afterward, Dow's share price fell 4.2% in 23 minutes, for a loss of $2 billion in market value. Dow quickly issued a statement saying that they had no employee by that name — that he was an impostor, not affiliated with Dow, and that his claims were a hoax. The BBC broadcast a correction and an apology. The statement was widely carried.

"Jude Finisterra" was actually Andy Bichlbaum, a member of the activist prankster group The Yes Men. In 2002, The Yes Men issued a phony press release explaining why Dow refused to take responsibility for the disaster and started up a website, DowEthics.com, designed to look like the Dow website but give what they felt was a more accurate cast on the events. In 2004, a producer for BBC News emailed them through the website requesting an interview, which they gladly obliged.

Taking credit for the prank in an interview on Democracy Now, Bichlbaum explains how his fake name was derived: "Jude is the patron saint of impossible causes and Finisterra means the end of the Earth". He explained that he settled on this approach (taking responsibility) because it would show people precisely how Dow could help the situation as well as likely garnering major media attention in the US, which had largely ignored the disaster's anniversaries, when Dow attempted to correct the statement.
After the original interview was revealed as a hoax, Bichlbaum appeared in a follow-up interview on the United Kingdom's Channel 4 news. During the interview he was repeatedly asked if he had considered the emotions and reaction of the people of Bhopal when producing the hoax.

 According to the interviewer, "there were many people in tears" upon having learned of the hoax. Each time, Bichlbaum said that, in comparison, what distress he had caused the people was minimal to that for which Dow was responsible. In the 2009 film The Yes Men Fix the World, the Yes Men travel to Bhopal to assess public opinion on their prank, and are surprised to find that the residents laud their efforts to bring some sort of responsibility to the corporate world.

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