Bhopal Gas Disaster
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Basic Information

On December 2, 1984, a gas leak at a Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal, India injured over 550,000 people in the middle of the night. About 8,000 of the people affected by the disaster died within 2 weeks of exposure, and another roughly 8,000 deaths since have been attributed to long-term effects of the poisoning. The toxicity was so high that when the bodies were autopsied, the coroner got poisoning. Nearby communities have high rates of cancer and birth defects from both the initial incident and lingering poison in the ground water.

After the disaster, the facility was abandoned with minimal clean-up. Poison was left sitting around in open pits and piles outside.

Union Carbide and the Indian Government paid out millions of dollars over this disaster… but that worked out to an average award of not much more than $2,000 per victim (or victim's family).

The disaster was massively exacerbated by the fact that many of the victims lived in a shanty town inside what was officially a "safety area" around the plant - when the disaster hit, they lacked even functional shelter against the gas cloud, let alone amenities such as running water to decontaminate with, communications to call for help or access roads by which to receive it. Many of them also had legal status issues and all were extremely poor, making access to medical care minimal.


2. Behind the Bastards Episode #76 of the Behind the Bastards podcast is all about the Bhopal Gas Disaster and the bastards responsible

Game and Story Use

  • If your game is set in India in the 1980s this is major grisly news.
    • Honestly, given the scale and loss of life, it should have been major world news. I'm shocked I've never heard of it before today.
      • …it was pretty big news. Certainly a big deal in the UK, possibly didn't make it out in the US for fear of lawfare or something?
  • A time travel plot could revolve around attempting to prevent this disaster, or otherwise save lives, such as saving a specific person.
  • If an eldritch abomination assaulted our reality at that time and place, the disaster could be the deus ex machina that defeats it at great human cost.
    • Be careful to construct your tale in a way that does not absolve the guilt of the corporate villains whose willful failure to follow sensible safety and environmental regulations caused this disaster. It would be pretty awful to inadvertently mislabel corporate negligence as some sort of world-saving heroism.
    • The real life Bhopal disaster was caused by negligent safety practices, but this sort of disaster could also very easily result from a firefight in the wrong place - let your cyberpunk and punk-punk murderhobos catch sight of news reports that the "evil corporation" facility that they ham-fistedly raided has disgorged filth all over a low rent neighbourhood; the place wasn't safe to begin with but their casual violence has made everything a lot worse. Key triggers would include excessive use of explosives, aggressive fully automatic fire in working areas and the video game tactic of shooting barrels of hazardous materials to attack nearby enemies.
  • The still-toxic abandoned factory would make for one heck of a mutant monster lair
  • The site would also be a dump site for badguys to hide bodies where no one would dare to look for them.
  • Likely to be quite common in many dystopiae - criminally unsafe industry is a staple of cyberpunk worldbuilding (even where it makes no sense to do so), as are shanty towns in unwise locations, luckless inhabitants and incompetent government responses.
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