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Monday, December 15, 2003

03/12/84 - Bhopal, India

Quietly the 3rd December came and went but 19 years ago in Bhopal an explosion at the Union Carbide* plant spewed tonnes of methyl isocyanate. 8,000 people, many the poorest on this earth died in the first three days. The final death toll is 16,000-30,000. Thousands still suffer and still live in the contaminated shadow of Union Carbide.

It is fashionable to compare catastrophic events to the World Trade Centre in 2001. But Bhopal was not India's retrospective 9/11 if anything the Twin Towers were America's 3/12.

The company was warned of the consequences of locating its plant near a heavily populated area. Two years before the explosion journalist Rajkumar Keswani warned of the possibilities of an accident occurring in no less than 4 newspaper articles. In the run up to the explosion, safety equipment was dismantled and safety staff and training were cut.

CEO Warren Anderson is still wanted by the Indian government who sought, half heartedly to extradite him. Strangely, Interpol, couldn't find one of the most powerful men in the chemical industry. He wasn't at his address when law enforcement officers called. Though it is not clear if they checked his golf club.

The case against corporate killers might start at home but the fight as always is international.

*1 Union Carbide is now owned by Dow Chemicals, who refuse to assume Carbide's environmental and criminal liabilities in Bhopal, despite taking on their asbestos liabilities in Texas.


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