Best of Slow Journalism: The worst industrial disaster ever

AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

Thirty years ago in the Indian city Bhopal, residents awoke from their sleep unable to breathe, their eyes burning from the effects of a toxic gas. A chemical explosion at a Union Carbide factory killed 3,000 people in the first 24 hours. It’s thought that more than 20,000 have now died from its effects – and that a further 100,000 have suffered chronic and debilitating illnesses. But no one really knows the full fallout from the disaster.

In ‘The worst industrial disaster in the history of the world’, published in The Baffler, Siddhartha Deb tells the story of a tragedy that won’t end. The gross safety breaches that allowed such a huge explosion; the wind that blew the gas towards the poorest parts of Bhopal; the fact that the site remains contaminated.

Deb describes how the site continues to “pulsate with its evil magic,” contaminating the water systems of the surrounding slums. “Within this grudging setup, people go on: the woman with the twisted limbs, the man who lost his family, the boy who turned schizophrenic.” It’s an excellent piece of slow, considered journalism: read it here.

Words: Victoria Seabrook

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