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Indian Express (15/01/2000)

Bhopal Tragedy

BHOPAL, JAN 14: A former plant operator with the Union Carbide Plant told a local court hearing the December, 1984, gas disaster case on Friday that the lethal methyl isocyanate had leaked in earlier two occasions also.

The incidents happened in December, 1981, and October, 1982, said the then operator, Totaram Chauhan, during the second day of his deposition as a witness for the Central Bureau of Investigation in the court of the Chief judicial magistrate L D Borasi.

Chauhan said the quantity of gas leaked on those occasions was very little. An employee, Ashraf, had died in the first incident while many had fallen unconscious and a plant supervisor, Agarwal, received burn injuries in 1982, Chauhan added. He said in October, 1982, the leakage had also caused panic in the localities surrounding the plant.

Answering a question from CBI counsel C Sahay, Chauhan said production levels in the plant fell only after it began producing methyl isocyanate gas.In mid-November, 1984, there was a speculation that the plant would be sold, he informed the court.

From November 2 to November 25 that year, the tanks meant for storing the gas were full to their capacity and during that period, the equipment to measure the gas level was kept away from the tanks, Chauhan said.

He said while tank numbers 611 and 619 had always showed normal pressure, tank number 610, from which the gas leaked on the night of December 2-3, always showed more than normal pressure.

During cross-examination by Carbide counsel Rajendra Singh, Chauhan said the equipment to measure the temperature of the gas producing unit was not working since 1982, the year when he had joined the plant.

Asked if he had complained about it, he said his work was limited only to recording figures in the log sheet. Another operator, Chandranath Sen, who also appeared as a witness for the CBI, told the court that he had not been given any special training to manage the plant.

Copyright 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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