Thirty years ago, on the night of December 2, 1984, an accident at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, released at least 30 tons of a highly toxic gas called methyl isocyanate, as well as a number of other poisonous gases. The pesticide plant was surrounded by shanty towns, leading to more than 600,000 people being exposed to the deadly gas cloud that night. The gases stayed low to the ground, causing victims throats and eyes to burn, inducing nausea, and many deaths. Estimates of the death toll vary from as few as 3,800 to as many as 16,000, but government figures now refer to an estimate of 15,000 killed over the years. Toxic material remains, and 30 years later, many of those who were exposed to the gas have given birth to physically and mentally disabled children. For decades, survivors have been fighting to have the site cleaned up, but they say the efforts were slowed when Michigan-based Dow Chemical took over Union Carbide in 2001. Human rights groups say that thousands of tons of hazardous waste remain buried underground, and the government has conceded the area is contaminated. There has, however, been no long-term epidemiological research which conclusively proves that birth defects are directly related to the drinking of the contaminated water. [28 photos total]

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1
Trees frame a rusting building at the abandoned former Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, on November 11, 2014. On the night of December 2, 1984, the factory owned by the U.S. multinational Union Carbide Corporation accidentally leaked methyl isocyanate and other highly toxic gases into the air, killing thousands of largely poor Indians in the neighborhoods nearby. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui) #
2
In December 1984, the entrance to the U.S.-owned Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, shortly after the release of poisonous gas. (AP Photo/Peter Kemp) #
3
Two men carry children blinded by the Union Carbide chemical gas leak to a hospital in Bhopal on December 5, 1984. (AP Photo/Sondeep Shankar) #
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Thousands of animals perished in the disaster as well, poisoned by the huge gas leak. Photo taken on December 4, 1984. (AP Photo/Thiang) #
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A photo from December 4, 1984, shows relatives surrounding victims of the Bhopal tragedy. (Bedi/AFP/Getty Images) #
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A victim of the Bhopal tragedy walks in the streets on December 4, 1984. In the background is the site of the factory. (Bedi/AFP/Getty Images) #
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This photograph taken on December 17, 1984, shows bodies of victims lined up following a poison gas leak which killed thousands from the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal. (Bedi/AFP/Getty Images) #
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Water is hosed onto canvas screens set up around the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal on December 18, 1984, as part of measures taken to avoid further leakage of fumes that had earlier taken a huge toll of deaths and injuries. (AP Photo/Peter Kemp) #
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A December 1984 photo shows victims who lost sight after a poison gas leak from a pesticide plant in Bhopal, in front of the US Union Carbide factory (shown in background). (AFP/Getty Images) #
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A worker cleans dust as he displays a panel of photographs of some of the thousands of people who died in the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster at the forensic department of Gandhi Medical college in Bhopal on June 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Prakash Hatvalne) #
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(1 of 2) A "before" photograph, showing Ram Chandra (left) with his wife Prema in an undated family photograph in Bhopal before the 1984 disaster. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui) #
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(2 of 2) Ram Chandra sits alone in Bhopal on November 15, 2014. Chandra said that his wife Prema died as a result of gas poisoning after the 1984 Bhopal disaster. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui) #
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(1 of 2) A "before" photograph, showing Zubeida (right) with her husband Salim Rehman in an undated family photograph taken before the 1984 disaster. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui) #
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(2 of 2) Zubeida Bi sits alone in Bhopal on November 11, 2014. Bi said that her husband Rehman died as a result of gas poisoning after the 1984 Bhopal disaster. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui) #
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Children play in front of their homes near the Union Carbide factory on November 27, 2009 in Bhopal, India. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #
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The flare tower, where highly toxic methyl isocyanate gas was released into the air in the 1984 disaster, at the abandoned Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal on November 28, 2014. (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images) #
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Plants grow over a staircase at the abandoned former Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal November 14, 2014. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui) #
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A network of pipes rust at the abandoned Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal on November 14, 2014. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui) #
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Former maintenance worker, Mohammed Yaqub, poses in his house with his old identity card from the defunct Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal where he once worked, on November 13, 2014. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui) #
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Children are reflected in groundwater, believed to be contaminated, near the site of the deserted Union Carbide factory on November 28, 2009 in Bhopal, India. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #
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A girl who suffers from hearing and speech disorders reacts to the camera at a rehabilitation center supported by Bhopal Medical Appeal, for children who were born with mental and physical disabilities, in Bhopal, on November 11, 2014. The rehabilitation center only treats families they believe have been affected by the Union Carbide gas leak 30 years ago. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui) #
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Sixty-four-year-old Zafar Ahmed, receives treatment at a clinic supported by Bhopal Medical Appeal in Bhopal on November 14, 2014. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui) #
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1984 Bhopal gas disaster survivor Akbar Khan, 70, sits inside a steam box as part of a rehabilitation using traditional Ayurvedic treatment at the Sambhavna Trust Clinic in Bhopal on December 1, 2014. (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images) #
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Partially blind gas victim waits for a verdict with other victims in the premises of Bhopal court in Bhopal, India, on June 7, 2010. An Indian court convicted seven former senior employees of Union Carbide's Indian subsidiary of "death by negligence" for their roles in the Bhopal gas tragedy that left thousands of people dead more than a quarter century previously in the world's worst industrial disaster. (AP Photo/Prakash Hatvalne) #
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A boy who was born with a mental disability looks out of a window at a rehabilitation center supported by Bhopal Medical Appeal for children who were born with mental and physical disabilities in Bhopal on November 11, 2014. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui) #
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Fifteen year old Sachin Kumar crawls on his hands and knees through his home in a slum near the site of the deserted Union Carbide factory on November 30, 2009 in Bhopal, India. Sachin lives with his parents Suresh and Sangita, his 3 sisters, Jyoti, Arti and Punam and his brother Ravi, in a slum where a number of people affected by either water contamination or poison contamination have been relocated. Sachin was born with a birth defect rendering his legs practically useless. He had been receiving physical therapy treatment and education from the Chingari Trust rehabilitation Center for victims of the 1984 gas tragedy, however his health has taken a turn for the worse and his legs, now covered with open sores, restrict him from traveling to the major road where the Chingari Trust bus can pick him up for daily treatment. The oldest of four, Sachin spends his days playing board games with his friends and a rare game of cricket, which he sees as the fulfillment of his dreams of becoming a professional cricket player. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #
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Bhopal Gas disaster survivors shout slogans as they burn an effigy during a protest rally in Bhopal on December 2, 2014. (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images) #
28
A security guard stands as sun rays pass through the defunct machinery at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal on December 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri) #

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