The Bhopal Gas Tragedy


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Case Details:

Case Code : BECG009
Case Length : 09 Pages
Period : 1980-2001
Pub. Date : 2002
Teaching Note : Available
Organization : Union Carbide India Limited
Industry : Chemicals
Countries : India

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Please note:

This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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“The numerous safety systems with which this type of plant is equipped enable us to control any of the MIC's potentially dangerous reactions.”

- A Union Carbide official commenting on the safety systems in the Bhopal pesticide plant.

“It's not a deadly gas, just irritating, a sort of tear gas.”

- Dr Loya, Union Carbide's official doctor in Bhopal, commenting on Methyl Isocyanate, after the tragedy.

Introduction

In the early morning hours of December 3, 1984, a poisonous grey cloud (forty tons of toxic gases) from Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL's)1 pesticide plant at Bhopal spread throughout the city. Water carrying catalytic material had entered Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) storage tank No. 610. What followed was a nightmare.

The killer gas spread through the city, sending residents scurrying through the dark streets. No alarm ever sounded a warning and no evacuation plan was prepared. When victims arrived at hospitals breathless and blind, doctors did not know how to treat them, as UCIL had not provided emergency information.

It was only when the sun rose the next morning that the magnitude of the devastation was clear. Dead bodies of humans and animals blocked the streets, leaves turned black, the smell of burning chilli peppers lingered in the air.

Estimates suggested that as many as 10,000 may have died immediately and 30,000 to 50,000 were too ill to ever return to their jobs.

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1] Subsidiary of the US based Union Carbide Corporation (UCC).


 

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