Union Carbide: CEO Not To Blame For India Gas Leak

Chemical company defended former chief executive now wanted for arrest in India, saying managers couldn't have foreseen gas leak at its Bhopal plant that killed 10,000 25 years ago.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Union Carbide is defending its former chief executive now wanted for arrest in India, saying managers couldn't have foreseen a gas leak at the chemical company's Bhopal plant that killed 10,000 people 25 years ago.

An Indian court issued a warrant Friday for Warren Anderson and ordered India's government to press Washington for his extradition. Anderson had been arrested just after the disaster but left the country and now resides in New York.

"Overwhelming evidence has established that the Bhopal gas release was caused by an act of employee sabotage that could not have been foreseen or prevented by the plant's management," Union Carbide spokesman Tomm F. Sprick said in a statement late Saturday. "The release had terrible consequences, but it makes no sense to continue to attempt to criminalize a tragedy that no one could have foreseen."

India's government as of Sunday has not acted on the court's request, and U.S. authorities have not moved to extradite Anderson. His wife, Lillian, told The Associated Press at their Bridgehampton, N.Y., home Saturday that her husband is 89 and in poor health and has been haunted for many years by the Bhopal disaster.

Anderson was CEO of Union Carbide, now owned by Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical Co., when the deadly gas cloud leaked from the factory on Dec. 3, 1984. More than 555,000 people who survived the initial disaster are thought to have suffered aftereffects, though the exact number of victims has never been determined. Many have died over the years from gas-related illnesses, like lung cancer, kidney failure and liver disease.

In 1989, Union Carbide paid $470 million in compensation to the Indian government and said officials were responsible for the cleanup. Victims accuse New Delhi of delaying distribution of the funds.

Sprick said in the company statement that Union Carbide had no role in operating the plant at the time because India's government required the factory be owned, managed and operated by employees of Union Carbide India Limited.

"Despite the fact that it did not operate the plant, Union Carbide never attempted to escape responsibility for the disaster. Union Carbide immediately accepted moral responsibility for the tragedy and also provided substantial monetary and medical aid to the victims," he added.

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