News for this day had a lot to do with the continually unfolding story in Bhopal India. A poison gas leak from a Union Carbide Chemical plant, exposing some 500,000 people – killing some 8,000 instantly. Reports of casualties varied – with estimates going as high as 20,000 and as low as 2,000. Those blinded or suffering long-term effects of exposure to the cloud of methyl isocyanate were said to be some 550,000 and rising, even to this day.
The shock and horror over the disaster quickly turned to anger and accusation. With some blaming the Indian government for not carrying out efficient monitoring of the facility and others blaming the seeming lack of response to the initial exposure felt it could have saved many more lives. At the center was the American company Union Carbide, whose President Warren Andersen was ultimately blamed for allowing a lax atmosphere to exist at the plant and being largely distant from responsibility for the disaster. The exact cause for the disaster remains a point of debate, even after some 31 years. Many maintain it was faulty supervision and lack of safety measures at the plant which caused the leak in the first place. And since the Indian government was a shareholder in the company, the level of corruption and bribing of government officials to “look the other way” on inspections cast doubt over the truth behind the disaster. While others maintain it was sabotage by a disgruntled former employee and that it was a methodical plan which could not have been anticipated.
Still – on December 4th 1984, it was very fresh and the numbers of dead were increasing by the minute. The hospitals were overflowing with injured, and makeshift field hospitals and triage centers were hastily put together to treat the newly blinded inhabitants of this once quiet Indian town.
There was other news this day – a lot of it. But the bulk of what was being reported via this episode of The CBS World News Roundup was about the unfolding disaster in India – all on the December 4, 1984.