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Indian Court Orders Release of Gas Leak Compensation...

by Blake Cook / July 19, 2004 6:26 AM PDT

NEW DELHI, July 19th -- Ending a long legal struggle for victims of a catastrophic gas leak in Bhopal, India, that killed at least 5,000 people in 1984, India's Supreme Court ruled today that $330 million in compensation should be distributed directly to the victims and no longer held by the Indian government.

The leak at a plant run by the Union Carbide Corporation was one of the worst industrial accidents in history, immediately killing 3,000 people and injuring 105,000. Indian officials are still pursuing criminal charges against the company's then-chairman, Warren Anderson, who is now in his early 80's living a low-profile retirement on Long Island and in Florida.

Victims hailed today's ruling but said the company, which is now part of Dow Chemical, should be forced to quadruple the amount of damages it has paid. At the time the compensation was paid in 1989, the figure was based on the 3,000 people who perished immediately and 105,000 injured.

Current estimates of how many people were killed by the leak ranging from 5,000 to 15,000. Indian officials concluded in 1997 that the number of deaths from gas-related aftereffects, such as tuberculosis and other respiratory problems, had surged to 15,310. The number of injured was found to be 578,000. The $330 million in compensation will be split among all 578,000 victims.

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