Fateful moments of Bhopal gas disaster

Last Updated: Monday, June 7, 2010 - 18:31

Bhopal: In the apocalyptic moments on the
cold wintry night of December 2-3, 1984, people simply started
dying in the most hideous ways after a toxic gas leak.

Some vomited uncontrollably, went into convulsions and
fell dead.

Others choked to death, drowning in their own body fluids
after the Union Carbide`s pesticide factory, whose safety
systems were reportedly not functioning, exploded in Bhopal
filling the streets of the city with toxic clouds of methyl
isocyanate gas.

During the intervening night December 2, a large amount
of water entered `tank 610` which contained 42 tonnes MIC,
much more than safety rules permitted.

A runaway reaction started, which was accelerated by
contaminants, high temperatures and other factors. The
reaction generated a major increase in the temperature inside
the tank to over 200 degree C. This forced the emergency venting of
pressure from the MIC holding tank, releasing a large volume
of toxic gases.

The reaction was speeded up by the presence of iron from
corroding non-stainless steel pipelines. It is known that
workers cleaned pipelines with water but they were not told by
the supervisor to add a slip-blind water isolation plate.
Because of this, and of the bad maintenance, the workers
consider it possible for water to have accidentally entered
the MIC tank.

Union Carbide first maintained that a "disgruntled
worker" deliberately connected a hose to a pressure gauge.
UCC`s investigation team found no evidence of the suggested

The timeline of the fateful intervening night of
December 2-3 as per available information.

The scene inside:

21.00 Water cleaning of pipes starts.

22.00 Water enters tank 610, reaction starts.

22.30 Gases are emitted from the vent gas scrubber

00.30 The large siren sounds and is turned off.

00.50 The siren is heard within the plant area. The
workers escape.

The scene outside:

22.30 First sensations due to the gases are
felt - suffocation, cough, burning eyes and vomiting.

1.00 Police are alerted. Residents of the area evacuate.
Union Carbide director denies any leak.

2.00 The first people reached Hamidia hospital. Symptoms
include visual impairment and blindness, respiratory
difficulties, frothing at the mouth, and vomitting.

2.10 The alarm is heard outside the plant.

4.00 The gases are brought under control.

6.00 A police loudspeaker broadcasts: "Everything is


First Published: Monday, June 7, 2010 - 18:31

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