A staggering 1,500 post-mortem examinations were conducted in the first one week after the horrific 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, recalled a doctor who has himself conducted autopsies on 15,000 gas victims over 25 years.
"The doctor on night duty (at Hamidia Hospital) contacted the Union Carbide doctor and asked him what had happened. The doctor responded that tear gas has been released and applying water would help," said DK Satpathy, a doctor who was on duty on that fateful night of December 2, 1984.
"In a little while, people started pouring into the hospital. Bodies too began to arrive. Soon, a stack of bodies was formed in the hospital complex," Satpathy said.
The gravity of the disaster soon became clear.
"On the first day on Dec 3, 850 post-mortems were carried out and in seven days, around 1,500 post-mortems were done," Satpathy said.
The doctor recalled that the deadly gas caused untold misery. "Even the children still in their mother's womb suffered. That's why the pregnant women who were gas victims had children who were physically challenged."
Satpathy said, "During my service from 1984 to 2009, I carried out post-mortem examinations of 15,000 gas victims."
The gas disaster killed over 3,000 people immediately and thousands others over the years due to related causes.
Recalling those terrible days, Satpathy said that for a week after the worst industrial disaster in the world, people from all walks of life did not leave any stone unturned to help the needy.
He said hotel and dhaba owners distributed free food, medicine shop owners gave away free medicines, and some arranged for shroud for the dead.
Satpathy said he had suggested to the government to carry out a small-scale demonstration of the disaster to better understand its ill-effects. He said that if the demonstration had been held, the picture would have been clearer. But, that was not done.
The doctor observed that the health facilities for the gas victims were not enough for a disaster of this magnitude. He said that there is a hospital for the gas victims now but it lacks specialists.