Bhopal: The World's Worst Industrial Disaster, 30 Years Later

Thirty years ago, on the night of December 2, 1984, an accident at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, released at least 30 tons of a highly toxic gas called methyl isocyanate, as well as a number of other poisonous gases. The pesticide plant was surrounded by shanty towns, leading to more than 600,000 people being exposed to the deadly gas cloud that night. The gases stayed low to the ground, causing victims throats and eyes to burn, inducing nausea, and many deaths. Estimates of the death toll vary from as few as 3,800 to as many as 16,000, but government figures now refer to an estimate of 15,000 killed over the years. Toxic material remains, and 30 years later, many of those who were exposed to the gas have given birth to physically and mentally disabled children. For decades, survivors have been fighting to have the site cleaned up, but they say the efforts were slowed when Michigan-based Dow Chemical took over Union Carbide in 2001. Human rights groups say that thousands of tons of hazardous waste remain buried underground, and the government has conceded the area is contaminated. There has, however, been no long-term epidemiological research which conclusively proves that birth defects are directly related to the drinking of the contaminated water.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Christian Palma / AP

    Photos of the Week: Underwater Restaurant, Holi Colors, Wonderland Eurasia

    Nowruz celebrations in Iraq, terrible flooding in Mozambique, springtime in China and England, mourning in New Zealand, flower fields in California, floodwaters across the midwestern U.S. and much more.

  • Carl Court / Getty

    Photos: Mourning in New Zealand

    Images from the past few days in Christchurch, where residents continue to gather at makeshift memorials across the city

  • Nati Harnik / AP

    In Photos: Deadly Floods Sweep the Midwest

    Snowmelt and last week’s “bomb cyclone” have overwhelmed rivers in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and neighboring states, causing widespread flooding that has broken dozens of records and cost at least three lives.

  • Leah Millis / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: Hudson Yards, Birdman Rally, Cat Yoga

    A rabbit in war-torn Syria, water shortages in Venezuela, cherry blossoms in China, terror in New Zealand, voting in North Korea, a global youth protest against climate-change inaction, and much more