Union Carbide says executives not to blame for Bhopal

Union Carbide says executives not to blame for Bhopal

An Indian court issued a warrant Friday for former CEO Warren Anderson and ordered India's government to press Washington for his extradition. Anderson had been arrested in India 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 US authorities have not moved to extradite Anderson.

His wife, Lillian, told The Associated Press at their Bridgehampton, New York, home Saturday that her husband is 89 and in poor health.

"We covered everything way back when," she said. "He's been haunted for many years" by the accident.

Lillian Anderson was not aware of the new arrest warrant and said, "It's probably some political thing." She said her husband was not at home.

"When you get to be 87 or 85 years old you just don't remember anything. You try to put bad things out of your mind," she said.

Anderson was CEO of Union Carbide, now owned by Midland, Michigan-based Dow Chemical Co, when the deadly gas cloud leaked from the factory on December 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 USD 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.