Bhopal, Oct. 15: Three thousand deaths in one night, 500,000 survivors living with telltale scars and an interlude of 22 years — Bhopal still has not learnt the lessons of the world’s worst industrial disaster.
Bhopal was in panic last night when hundreds began pouring into the city coughing and vomiting after they inhaled an unidentified gas leaked from an industrial area in a neighbouring district.
The affected area is hardly 30 km from the Madhya Pradesh capital. But 24 hours into the scare, neither the precise location nor the cause of the leak or the nature of the gas could be established.
The government did order a magisterial inquiry and said it expects a report “in about five days”.
This, in the backyard of a city in which over 3,000 people died instantly on the cold and foggy night of December 2, 1984. The toll went up later and the after-effects of the gas tragedy are still evident in Bhopal that has over 500,000 survivors suffering from chronic ailments.
The accident occurred late on Saturday in Raisen district, which lies adjacent to Bhopal. Raisen district collector Arun Bhatt, who visited the affected villages, said: “An investigation is under way to identify the gas and the precise location of the leak.”
Officials said over 1,000 people were affected. Most patients recovered by today morning and afternoon. “People are complaining of severe breathing problems and itching in the eyes,” a doctor said.
The officials said Saturday’s leak was not even remotely as serious as the Bhopal tragedy but residents were fuming. “Why is gas still leaking from factories'” a resident asked. “If, even 24 hours after a leak they cannot identify the gas, how prepared are they for another disaster'”