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November 30, 2009

25th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster

Twenty-five years ago this week, in the early hours of Dec. 3, 1984, large amounts of water entered a tank at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India. That water reacted with the 42 tons of methyl isocyanate inside, raising temperature and pressure so high that it began venting massive amounts of gas made up of methyl isocyanate, phosgene, hydrogen cyanide and more. The poisonous cloud swept through neighborhoods near the boundary wall, waking sleeping residents with burning throats and eyes, killing about 4,000 people in the first few hours. Over the next few years, the lingering effects increased that toll to about 15,000 dead, according to government estimates. A quarter-century later thousands of people are still grappling with the effects of the world's worst industrial accident and the continued contamination. Union Carbide was bought by Dow Chemical in 2001, and Dow claims the legal case was resolved in 1989, with responsibility for continued cleanup now falling to the local state government. (28 photos total)

A policeman points to the gas tank which vented its contents into the atmosphere in 1984, at the site of the deserted Union Carbide factory on November 28, 2009 in Bhopal, India. Twenty-five years after a massive gas leak at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal killed thousands, toxic material from the 'biggest industrial disaster in history' continues to affect Bhopalis. A new generation is growing up sick, disabled and struggling for justice. The effects of the disaster on the health of generations to come, both through genetics, transferred from gas victims to their children and through the ongoing severe contamination, caused by the Union Carbide factory, has only started to develop visible forms recently. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

In a file picture taken on December 4, 1984 soldiers guard the entrance of Union Carbide factory in Bhopal after a deadly poison gas leak. Survivors of the world's worst industrial disaster in India's Bhopal city were outraged by (now cancelled) plans to throw open the site to visitors 25 years after the tragedy that killed thousands. (BEDI/AFP/Getty Images) #

This photograph from December 4, 1984 shows victims who lost their sight in the Bhopal poison gas tragedy as they sit outside the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images) #

This December 4, 1984 photograph shows blinded victims of the Bhopal tragedy as they sit in the street and wait to be treated at Bhopal hospital after a deadly poisonous gas leak from the Union Carbide factory. (BEDI/AFP/Getty Images) #

In this Nov. 21, 2009 photo, defunct machinery is seen at the Union Carbide pesticide plant. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das) #

A gaping hole in a rusting container is seen at the Union Carbide pesticide plant, on November 21, 2009. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das) #

A security worker cycles past what remains of the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India on November 21, 2009. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das) #

Discarded bottles of chemicals lay on the floor in a building at the site of the deserted Union Carbide factory on November 28, 2009 in Bhopal, India. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #

A boy struggles to take a calf grazing inside the Union Carbide factory compound, seen through a broken wall in Bhopal, India on November 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das) #

Women fill containers with clean water, as it is shipped in due to the local water being contaminated, near the site of the deserted Union Carbide factory on November 28, 2009 in Bhopal, India. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #

Activists and survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak disaster that killed and harmed thousands hold placards against Dow Chemical Company outside it's office in Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009. A subsidiary of U.S. chemical company Union Carbide ran the plant at the time of the accident. For decades, survivors have been fighting to have the site cleaned up, but they say the efforts were slowed when Michigan-based Dow Chemical Co. took over Union Carbide in 2001. Dow says it is not responsible for cleaning up the site. (Staffing/Manish Swarup) #

Activists from Bhopal Gas Tragedy Survivors Group burn effigies as they protest against Union Carbide Corp, ahead of the 25th anniversary of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, in the central Indian city of Bhopal November 29, 2009. (REUTERS/Raj Patidar) #

Activists and survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak disaster that killed and harmed thousands more protest against Dow Chemical Company outside it's office in Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009. (Staffing/Manish Swarup) #

A policeman looks on as he tours the site of the deserted Union Carbide factory on November 28, 2009 in Bhopal, India. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #

People walk past a statue of a mother holding a dead child in her arms in Bhopal, India on November 18, 2009. Residents are bitter whenever they glance behind their homes toward the old Union Carbide factory, where a lethal plume of gas escaped from a storage tank in the early hours of December 3, 1984, killing thousands instantly. Survivors say the anniversary marks another year of physical and psychological trauma compounded by government and corporate negligence. (RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images) #

8 year old Annan is carried by Nafiza Bee, coordinator of the Chingari Trust clinic on November 27, 2009 in Bhopal, India. Twenty-five years after an explosion causing a mass gas leak killed thousands, toxic material from the biggest industrial disaster in history continues to affect Bhopalis. Annan suffers from cerebral palsy and receives vital rehabilitative support and care at the Chingari Trust Clinic. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #

Ten year old Nawab Mian, suffering from mental illness related to the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, plays with a small chick near the site of the deserted Union Carbide factory on November 28, 2009 in Bhopal, India. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #

Apeksha Malviya is fed at her home in Bhopal, India on November 22, 2009. A quarter century after the disaster, many of those who were exposed to the gas have given birth to physically and mentally disabled children. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das) #

Children are reflected in groundwater, believed to be contaminated, near the site of the deserted Union Carbide factory on November 28, 2009 in Bhopal, India. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #

This Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009 photograph shows a cow, the sole living being that was found at a government hospital dedicated to gas victims in Bhopal, India. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das) #

People carry potable water collected from inside the premises of Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India on November 21, 2009. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das) #

Women complaining of ailments due to exposure to methyl isocyanate leaked during the Bhopal industrial disaster wait to consult doctor at a clinic run by a non governmental organization in Bhopal, India on November 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das) #

Razik pronounces words during a rehabilitation exercise with speech therapist Prem Patel at the Chingari Trust Rehabilitation clinic on November 27, 2009 in Bhopal, India. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #

In this Friday, Aug. 7, 2009 photograph, Hira Lal, who has lost the ability to move and hear, lays on a makeshift bed outside his shanty in Bhopal, India. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das) #

Children play in front of their homes near the Union Carbide factory on November 27, 2009 in Bhopal, India. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #

A man jumps off the perimeter wall at the site of the Union Carbide factory on November 28, 2009 in Bhopal, India. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #

In this Friday, Nov. 20, 2009 photograph, a physiotherapist holds the leg of a seven year old child at a clinic run by a non-governmental organization to cater to victims of the gas tragedy in Bhopal, India. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das) #

A girl stands near water towers outside her home near the site of the Union Carbide factory on November 27, 2009 in Bhopal, India. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #

 
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