The plight of the survivors of the 1984 gas disaster in Bhopal has received significant press coverage this month after a report from survivor organisations on June 11th revealed that more than 75% of Covid-19 victims in the city – 48 out of 60 – were gas survivors. As well as receiving extensive coverage in the Indian national press, the story was covered in an article in the Telegraph by India Correspondent Joe Wallen on June 23rd, entitled ‘Bhopal Survivors Succumb to Covid, 35 Years After Chemical Disaster‘.
The article provides some background on the Bhopal gas disaster, before following the story of a survivor, Salman Ali, who’s brother Irfan – also a survivor – tragically passed away from coronavirus on April 27th. The article also features an interview with Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, one of the survivor groups in the city that has been leading efforts to protect survivors and gather data on the effects of the pandemic. Dhingra explains how long-term health conditions as a result of exposure to Methyl Isocyanate gas have rendered survivors, many of whom have multiple comorbidities, vulnerable to Covid-19.
“This is pretty astounding and clearly establishes the fact that gas victims’ injuries as a result of toxic exposure to MIC have caused long-term damage” – Rachna Dhingra
As of today official government statistics report a total of 2,527 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Bhopal, 653 active cases and 85 total deaths. However, the relatively low rate of testing and some recent local media reports suggest the actual number of casualties is likely to be significantly higher. Until more information is released it is unclear how many of the more recent victims are gas survivors, but what remains clear is that the survivor population in the city remain under imminent threat from the virus. If you would like to help, you can do so by signing up to support our Bhopal’s Community Shield Campaign, an action plan to safeguard survivors in the city spearheaded by staff from our own Sambhavna clinic, along with a network of community volunteers and local government workers. You can read more about it and sign up to receive a copy of our brochure here: https://www.bhopal.org/support-us/community-shield-campaign/
If you would like to read the article in the Telegraph, you can do so here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/bhopal-coronavirus-survivors-worlds-worst-industrial-disaster/