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Carbide Says India Should Bear Liabilities For Gas Leak

December 17, 1986

BHOPAL, India (AP) _ Union Carbide Corp. says the Indian government should bear most liability in the world’s worst industrial disaster because it ignored the growth of illegal shanties around the Bhopal plant.

The high death toll in the December, 1984, gas leak from a Carbide pesticide plant was due to the large number of unauthorized dwellings in an exclusively industrial area, the U.S. multinational said in a statement filed in a Bhopal court Tuesday.

The statement, signed by Carbide Secretary O. Jules Romary, urged the court in the central Indian city to ″order the government of India and the Madhya Pradesh state government to bear the burden of their responsibilities and liabilities arising out of the Bhopal incident.″

The 169-page statement was in response to the Indian government’s suit filed in Bhopal last September seeking more than $3 billion in compensation for the victims.

The disaster killed 2,000 people and injured 40,000. India earlier rejected Carbide’s offer of a $350 million out-of-court settlement.

Bhopal District Judge G.S. Patel set Jan. 7 as the deadline for India’s response to the Carbide statement. Arguments in the case are likely to begin Jan. 12.

The Carbide statement, filed by company attorney Talat Ansari, repeated Carbide allegations that the leak of lethal methyl isocynate gas was probably caused by sabotage.

The statement charged that the Indian government made no effort to investigate the suspected sabotage.

″The Central Bureau of Investigation, the government of India and its scientific advisers apparently desired not to reach a conclusion that the event was caused by a deliberate act and this had the effect of aiding the persons involved in maintaining their deception,″ it alleged.

Carbide claimed the factory log books were altered to cover up the alleged sabotage.

In one instance, it said, the time of the transfer of MIC gas to an operating tank was ″altered later to make the time of the final transfer appear to be as far away in time from the major emission as possible.″ Some logs important to reconstructing the incident are missing, the statement claimed.

The company alleges a large quantity of water was deliberately introduced into the gas tank, triggering a runaway reaction. In the past, it has claimed the alleged sabotage may have been committed by a disgruntled factory worker.

The Indian government’s suit contends that its investigations have revealed that the gas leak was caused by Carbide’s criminal negligence, bad plant design and obsolete safety mechamisms. It says Carbide must bear complete responsibility.

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