- Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) factory was built in 1969 to produce the pesticide using methyl isocyanate (MIC) as an intermediate.
- An MIC production plant was added to the UCIL site in 1979.The chemical process employed in the Bhopal plant had methylamine reacting with phosgene to form MIC
- In the early 1980s, the demand for pesticides had fallen, but production continued, leading to build-up of stores of unused MIC where that method was used
- In 1976, two local trade unions complained of pollution within the plant.In 1981, a worker was accidentally splashed with phosgene as he was carrying out a maintenance job of the plant’s pipes.
- In January 1982, a phosgene leak exposed 24 workers, all of whom were admitted to a hospital. None of the workers had been ordered to wear protective masks.
- One month later, in February 1982, an MIC leak affected 18 workers. In August 1982, a chemical engineer came into contact with liquid MIC, resulting in burns over 30 percent of his body. Later that same year, in October 1982, there was another MIC leak
. • During 1983 and 1984, there were leaks of MIC, chlorine, monomethylamine, phosgene, and carbon tetrachloride.
- The Bhopal UCIL facility housed three underground 68,000 liters liquid MIC storage tanks.
- In late October 1984, tank E610 lost the ability to effectively contain most of its nitrogen gas pressure. It meant that the liquid MIC contained within could not be pumped out.
- At the time of this failure, tank E610 contained 42 tons of liquid MIC.Shortly after this failure, MIC production was halted at the Bhopal facility, and parts of the plant were shut down for maintenance.
- In early December 1984, most of the plant’s MIC related safety systems were malfunctioning and many valves and lines were in poor condition
- During the late evening hours of 2 December 1984, water was believed to have entered a side pipe The introduction of water into the tank subsequently resulted in a runaway exothermic reaction, which was accelerated by contaminants, high ambient temperatures and various other factors.
- A UCIL employee triggered the plant’s alarm system at 12:50 a.m. as the concentration of gas in and around the plant became difficult to tolerate.
- Activation of the system triggered two siren alarms: one that sounded inside the UCIL plant, and a second directed outward to the public and the city of Bhopal.
- With the lack of timely information exchange between UCIL and Bhopal authorities, the city’s Hamidia Hospital was first told that the gas leak was suspected to be ammonia, then phosgene. Finally, they received an updated report that it was “MIC” which hospital staff had never heard of, had no antidote for, and received no immediate information about.
- The MIC gas leak emanating from tank E610 petered out at approximately 2:00 a.m. Fifteen minutes later, the plant’s public siren was sounded for an extended period of time.
- The initial effects of exposure were coughing, severe eye irritation and a feeling of suffocation, burning in the respiratory tract, breathlessness, stomach pains and vomiting.
- People awakened by these symptoms fled away from the plant. methyl isocyanate gas is approximately twice as dense as air and hence in an open environment has a tendency to fall toward the ground.
- Thousands of people had died by the following morning. Apart from MIC, based on laboratory simulation conditions, the gas cloud most likely also contained chloroform, dichloromethane, hydrogen chloride, methyl amine, dimethylamine, trimethylamine and carbon dioxide.
WARREN ANDERSON(THE DEVIL)
- In the immediate aftermath, the plant was closed to outsiders (including UCC) by the Indian government.The UCC chairman and CEO Warren Anderson, together with a technical team, immediately traveled to India.
- Upon arrival Anderson was placed under house arrest and urged by the Indian government to leave the country within 24 hours.
- The health care system immediately became overloaded. In the severely affected areas, nearly 70 percent were under-qualified doctors. Medical staff were unprepared for the thousands of casualties. Doctors and hospitals were not aware of proper treatment methods for MIC gas inhalation
- Legal proceedings involving UCC, the United States and Indian governments, local Bhopal authorities, and the disaster victims started immediately after the catastrophe.
- The Indian Government passed the Bhopal Gas Leak Act in March 1985, allowing the Government of India to act as the legal representative for victims of the disaster leading to the beginning of legal proceedings.
- In May, litigation was transferred from the United States to Indian courts by a U.S. District Court ruling. Eventually, in an out-of-court settlement reached in February 1989, Union Carbide agreed to pay US$470 million for damages caused in the Bhopal disaster.
- In 1991, the local Bhopal authorities charged Anderson, who had retired in 1986, with manslaughter, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
- He was declared a fugitive from justice by the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal on 1 February 1992 for failing to appear at the court hearings.
- Warren Anderson died in 2014.