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Dec 3, 2014 12:53 AM

Indians mark 30th anniversary of Bhopal disaster

The Associated Press

BHOPAL, India (AP) Hundreds of survivors of the Bhopal gas leak took to the streets Wednesday to mark the 30th anniversary of the world's worst industrial disaster, with protests demanding harsher punishments for those responsible and more compensation for the victims of the tragedy.

On the morning of Dec. 3, 1984, a pesticide plant run by Union Carbide leaked about 40 tons of deadly methyl isocyanate gas into the air of the central Indian city of Bhopal, quickly killing about 4,000 people. Lingering effects of the poison pushed the death toll to about 15,000 over the next few years, according to government estimates.

In all, at least 500,000 people were affected, the Indian government says. Thirty years later, activists say thousands of children are born with brain damage, missing palates and twisted limbs because of their parents' exposure to the gas or water contaminated by it.

The disaster remains an open wound in India, where many consider Union Carbide's $470 million settlement with the Indian government an insult.

Ram Pyari said the tragedy haunts her life.

"Everything was destroyed," she said Tuesday during an evening vigil. "And my sons and my daughter-in-law died, my leg was amputated. I have to drag myself. These killers did not heed anything. Why are they not brought to court? Why are they not hanged?"

In the poor neighborhoods behind the Union Carbide plant, where the worst of the tragedy unfolded some 600 kilometers (320 miles) south of New Delhi, survivors and their relatives and supporters burned effigies of Warren Anderson, who headed Union Carbide Corp. at the time of the leak, and a banner emblazoned with the logo of Dow Chemical Co., which bought Union Carbide.

Angry protesters spit on the effigies and some young boys urinated on them before they were set on fire.

Anderson died in September in a nursing home in Vero Beach, Florida. Just after the disaster, Anderson traveled to India, where he was arrested. He left the country while free on bail and never returned.

In 2011, the Indian government made a renewed push to extradite Anderson, then 90, from the United States, without success. Prosecutors wanted to try him on culpable-homicide charges.

Anderson remained a focus of much of the anger of those who survived the gas leak, a symbol of what they perceive as the lack of accountability of big multinational corporations.

Dow Chemical says it has no liability because it bought Union Carbide more than a decade after the cases had been settled.


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