Bhopal: the lingering tragedy

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 09 December 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:1410
  1. Prabha Desikan (, associate professor
  1. Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre, Bhopal, India

It was a bolt from the blue. In the early hours of the morning of 3 December 1984 toxic methyl isocyanate gas leaked out of the storage tanks of Union Carbide's plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. Residents awoke to clouds of suffocating gas and began a desperate flight through the dark streets. No warning alarm was given, and no evacuation plan had been prepared. It was an industrial disaster without parallel in history. Victims arrived at hospitals blind and with breathing problems. Doctors did their best to manage them, but it was an exercise in futility. The causative agent had not been identified, and so treatment was empirical. Only the next morning was the magnitude of the devastation seen. Dead bodies of humans and animals blocked the streets. Leaves had turned black, and an acrid smell lingered in the air. The sheer enormity of loss was heartbreaking. Destruction, under the guise of development, had smoked life out of the town.

Twenty years down the line the nightmare continues. A 40 year old woman breathes with difficulty in her …

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