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Thousands Flee Ammonia Leak in Bhopal

June 23, 1987

BHOPAL, India (AP) _ Thousands of panic-stricken residents fled their homes after ammonia gas leaked from an ice factory adjacent to the Union Carbide plant where the toxic gas disaster occurred 2 1/2 years ago, police said today.

Police said no casualties were reported from the ammonia leak.

But they said four people from the ice factory, including the manager, were arrested on charges of negligence and endangering public life.

Reports of the ammonia leak spread Monday night through the slum colonies around the Union Carbide factory and residents started to flee despite police announcements that they were not in danger, witnesses said.

″We thought the Union Carbide plant had leaked again,″ Amina Bi, a 45- year-old woman living across from the factory, told reporters today.

Residents of several neighborhoods grabbed belongings and ran on foot for several miles, taking shelter in nearby villages, police said. Some were seen returning to their homes today.

More than 2,300 people were killed when toxic methyl isocyanate gas leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in December 1984. At least 200,000 people were injured in the gas leak, the world’s worst industrial disaster.

The Union Carbide factory has been closed since the gas leak.

Ammonia gas is colorless but has a pungent odor, and can cause respiratory problems. It was not clear what caused the gas to leak from the ice factory.

Motilal Vora, chief minister of Madhya Pradesh state, visited Bhopal neighborhoods following the panic. Bhopal is the capital of Madhya Pradesh.

Update hourly