The Bhopal Gas Tragedy Through Veteran Photojournalist Raghu Rai’s Eyes
On the night of December 2, thirty-five years ago, The Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), a pesticide plant in Bhopal leaked tonnes of methyl isocyanate gas into the atmosphere. This was due to the improper maintenance of the plant and the failure of the alarms system that failed to alert the concerned authorities at the right time.
The official records state that MIC mixed with the water used as a cooling agent in the plant which led to a large volume of gases. These gases subsequently put pressure on the Tank numbered 610. Unable to withhold the pressure, the tank released close to 40 tonnes of MIC and other chemicals which engulfed the city of Bhopal, leading to the world’s worst industrial disaster till date.
Indiatimes quotes the government of Madhya Pradesh in stating that there were around 3,787 deaths related to the gas release and an official affidavit submitted in 2006 states that the leak caused 5,58,125 injuries that included approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries.
In an interview with the news website, veteran photojournalist Raghu Rai shared how he reached the site of the accident on the morning of December 3 and documented the crisis.
“We took a 7am flight in the morning and by 9 am we were at the site. As we were driving to the location, there were dead animals, bloated animals, cows, buffaloes, dogs anything on the streets as if somebody had bombed the city with chemical weapons. We went to the hospital when all the sick and poisoned children were being brought in and a whole lot of dead bodies were lying on one side. From children to men and women were being brought in a very bad condition,” he told Indiatimes.
“Unlike 9/11 where 2,000 people died and every family got compensated heavily, India is an overpopulated, corrupt country where lives do not mean much to the politicians; to the bureaucrats, it is one of those very sad stories. But after the exhibitions we did and the awareness we created with the photographs, some compensation was paid to them but not enough to come out of the tragedy,” he added.
Here are the photographs Raghu Rai took: