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India Takes Another Step Towards Extradition Over Bhopal

Fri, 06/25/2010 - 5:53am

NEW DELHI (AP) — India's Cabinet has approved pushing for the former head of Union Carbide to be extradited over the toxic gas leak in 1984 that killed an estimated 15,000 people.

Public ire over the world's worst industrial disaster in the Indian city of Bhopal resurfaced this month after a court convicted seven former employees.

They were found guilty of "death by negligence" and sentenced to two years in prison. Many in India saw the verdict as far too light a punishment for the tragedy.

On the morning of Dec. 3, 1984, a pesticide plant run by Union Carbide leaked about 40 tons of deadly methyl isocyanate gas into the air of Bhopal, quickly killing about 4,000 people. Lingering effects of the poison raised the toll to about 15,000 over the next few years, according to government estimates. In all, at least 500,000 people were affected.

India will renew an extradition request with U.S. authorities for former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson, who was arrested and quickly released when he visited India soon after the tragedy.

Anderson's wife, Lillian, told The Associated Press at their Bridgehampton, New York, home last year that her elderly husband was in poor health and had been haunted by the Bhopal disaster.

The government will also pursue liability claims against Dow Chemical Co., which took over Union Carbide in 2001, seven years after Union Carbide sold its interest in the Bhopal plant.

In 1989, Union Carbide paid $470 million in compensation to the Indian government and said officials were responsible for the cleanup.

Midland, Michigan-based Dow maintains that the 1989 settlement resolved the legal case. Dow Chemical says it did not own Union Carbide at the time of the leak, and it has no liability.

The Indian government will also spend $65 million to clean up the factory and give the families of those killed $22,000 each.

Union Carbide Corp. said the accident was an act of sabotage by a disgruntled employee who was never identified. It has denied the disaster was the result of lax safety standards or faulty plant design, as claimed by some activists.

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