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Bhopal disaster (wikipedia.org)
35 points by dustingetz on June 18, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 15 comments

From the guidelines:

You can make up a new title if you want, but if you put gratuitous editorial spin on it, the editors may rewrite it.

I'd suggest changing it just to the linked page's title "Bhopal disaster" (context: at the time of writing the title is "1984: US company's negligence kills 15,000 people in India" since, as mentioned in the article, it is disputed whether Union Carbide was negligent. Union Carbide still maintains the disaster was the result of sabotage.

update: Thanks editors!

It was almost certainly sabotage, chemical plants (including the UC plant at Bhopal) are designed to make accidents like this impossible. After the fact investigations all failed to reproduce the alleged accident mechanism.

Also, completely coincidentally, UC was involved in a dispute with the union.

Lastly, "US Company" is inaccurate. The plant was only 50.9% US owned, and 49.1% Indian owned.

So it should be "US company kills 7,635 people on a pro-rata basis."

Can you please provide some proof / reference for the sabotage claim ?

According to the wikipedia article, the various investigations (by UCC, the government, outside consultants) all failed to reproduce the failure mode alleged to be behind the disaster (water backflow into the mic tank). There doesn't seem to be direct evidence of sabotage, only circumstantial - all the accidental failure modes were ruled out, so what remains is deliberate introduction of water.


Note that the Indian government significantly inhibited any external investigation into the disaster.

And sabotage or not, there was plenty of blame to go around, and not limited to policies and processes that can be rightfully put on the corporate office; much of the tactical damage control and safety issues were pretty much in the complete purview of the local populace actually working there, some of which reportedly RAN AWAY rather the performing prescribed safety procedures.

Yeah, the title seems slanted. It's an interesting question though, that of negligence. If you handle a deadly chemical and manage to kill 15000 people, it's pretty clear that someone didn't consider the possible consequences (or didn't care enough). I'm usually not much for scapegoating, but I think this is one of the cases where it is incumbent upon you to make sure you don't kill people. (And sabotage or not, it's still your responsibility to safeguard the facilities if the potential consequences of a leak are that dire.)

> ... sabotage or not, it's still your responsibility to safeguard the facilities...

Half of sabotage is breaking safeguards.

Not that precautions and defenses shouldn't exist, but asking for safeguards that are still safe after being sabotaged is like asking cryptologists to design a system that is still secure after it's been compromised.

Yes, my complaint about the title shouldn't be taken as a complete endorsement of Union Carbide's view of events. If you choose to put a tank of poison gas within death range of fifteen thousand people, especially of the "if any water ever gets in this tank will explode" variety, you have to bear at least partial responsibility for whatever happens.

Read the center of this item which is cited by stretchwithme elsewhere but not hotlinked: http://www.objectivistcenter.org/ct-2089-mutual_plunder.aspx

It agrees with my recollection of the reporting at the time, that when Union Carbide built the plant in 1969 it was in a deserted area and that the victims moved there later (according to this account, due to the actions of local planners).

Ah yes, well if that's the case then we should definitely heap some blame on the local planners who allowed residential zones so close to the big scary gas canister of death.

Here's another perspective on this:

The government did quite a bit to weaken this facility in an effort to "create jobs". Union Carbide's big mistake was continuing to do business there when the government kept changing the terms for the deal they had. But that's what governments always do.

What? We're linking to Wikipedia articles now and calling it news?

I get what you're saying. But it is an interesting engineering failure story. Was one of our case studies in engineering ethics class...

Nifty... that sets an interesting precident that makes me believe the US should do the same thing with Tony Hayward and his cronies.

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