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[cdn-nucl-l] NYT: Bhopal killed 15,310, injured 578,000
This is reality! The Bhopal victims are known. They have names.
The 100,000 Chernobyl victims are hypothetical (ICRP estimates).
Hopefully, the nuclear industry will get real some day soon.
Indian Court Orders Release of Gas Leak Compensation
By DAVID ROHDE
Published: July 19, 2004
NEW DELHI, July 19th - Ending a long legal struggle for victims of a
catastrophic gas leak in Bhopal, India, that killed at least 5,000 people in
1984, India's Supreme Court ruled today that $330 million in compensation
should be distributed directly to the victims and no longer held by the
The leak at a plant run by the Union Carbide Corporation was one of the
worst industrial accidents in history, immediately killing 3,000 people and
injuring 105,000. Indian officials are still pursuing criminal charges
against the company's then-chairman, Warren Anderson, who is now in his
early 80's living a low-profile retirement on Long Island and in Florida.
Victims hailed today's ruling but said the company, which is now part of Dow
Chemical, should be forced to quadruple the amount of damages it has paid.
At the time the compensation was paid in 1989, the figure was based on the
3,000 people who perished immediately and 105,000 injured.
Current estimates of how many people were killed by the leak ranging from
5,000 to 15,000. Indian officials concluded in 1997 that the number of
deaths from gas-related after-effects, such as tuberculosis and other
respiratory problems, had surged to 15,310. The number of injured was found
to be 578,000. The $330 million in compensation will be split among all
"We are fighters and have been fighting this battle for the last 20 years,
and are happy to win in the end," Hameeda Bee, a 50-year-old gas victim who
lost five family members in the accident, said in a telephone interview.
"But the money should be quadrupled."
Company officials have maintained that the leak was caused by sabotage, but
no one has ever been charged. Instead, evidence produced at 2002 court
hearings on whether to downgrade the charges against Mr. Anderson pointed to
poor safety procedures and maintenance. The site of the accident, which
still has not been cleaned up, may be leaking contaminants into groundwater
Large, grass-roots citizens groups have emerged from the disaster, demanding
fair treatment in demonstrations in New Delhi and other cities from the
company and the Indian government. Union Carbide paid $470 million in
damages 1989, but the money has remained in the hands of the Indian
government since then. The $330 million the Supreme Court ordered
distributed today is the amount the government has not spent, plus accrued
Victims have complained that the government has wasted tens of millions of
dollars on grandiose new hospitals, building projects and other boondoggles
that have created few benefits for victims. There have been complaints of
corruption and fraud, and generous fees for contractors.
Union Carbide also built a giant hospital of its own, selling off its Indian
assets to pay for the $40 million structure. Opened four years ago, it is a
gleaming white elephant on 87 acres on Bhopal's outskirts, filled with the
latest medical equipment but mostly half empty. The hospital's
well-compensated consultants and doctors live in homes built on the hospital
grounds, along with a swimming pool.
Abdul Jabbar, who runs the Bhopal Women Gas Victims' Industrial Association,
one of the petitioners in the case decided today, praised the ruling, but
also said that the amount of damages should be quadrupled. Mr. Jabbar, who
lost his father and brother in the accident, compared the response to the
Bhopal tragedy to the response to the World Trade Center collapse.
"The compensation to the victims of World Trade Center and cleanup of the
site was done within a year," he said in a telephone interview. "We are
still waiting for both even after almost two decades."