The Bhopal Disaster of 1984 is claimed by many as the worst industrial disaster in history. It was caused by the accidental release of 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC) from a Union Carbide India, Limited (UCIL, now known as Eveready Industries India, Limited) pesticide plant located in the heart of the city of Bhopal, in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. UCIL was a joint venture between Union Carbide and a consortium of Indian investors.
In the early hours of December 3, 1984, a holding tank with stored MIC overheated and released toxic heavier-than-air MIC gas, which rolled along the ground through the surrounding streets killing thousands outright. The transportation system in the city collapsed and many people were trampled trying to escape. The gases also injured anywhere from 150,000 to 600,000 people, at least 15,000 of whom later died.
The majority of deaths and serious injuries were related to pulmonary edema, but the gas caused a wide variety of other ailments. Signs and symptoms of methyl isocyanate normally include cough, dyspnea, chest pain, lacrimation, eyelid edema, and unconsciousness. These effects might progress over the next 24 to 72 hours to include acute lung injury, cardiac arrest, and death. Because of the hypothesized reactions that took place within the storage tank and in the surrounding atmosphere, it is thought that apart from MIC, phosgene, and hydrogen cyanide along with other poisonous gases all played a significant role in this disaster.
Information on the exact chemical mixture was never provided by the company, but blood and viscera of some victimes showed cherry-red color characteristic in acute cyanide poisoning. A series of studies made five years later showed that many of the survivors were still suffering from one or several of the following ailments: partial or complete blindness, gastrointestinal disorders, impaired immune systems, post traumatic stress disorders, and menstrual problems in women. A rise in spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, and offspring with genetic defects was also noted. In addition, a BBC investigation conducted in November 2004 confirmed that contamination is still present.
Personal accounts of the Bhopal disaster can be found on Wikipedia at Bhopal disaster (witness accounts).Read more on Bhopal Disaster...