MUMBAI, India –   After 36 years the victims of the Bhopal chemical factory disaster continue to suffer, according to Archbishop Leo Cornelio.

On the morning of Dec. 3, 1984, a pesticide plant run by Union Carbide leaked about 40 tons of deadly methyl isocyanate gas into the air in Bhopal, quickly killing about 4,000 people. Lingering effects of the poison pushed the death toll to about 15,000 over the next few years, according to Indian government estimates.

In all, at least 500,000 people were affected, the government says. Over thirty years later, activists say thousands of children are still being born with brain damage, missing palates and twisted limbs because of their parents’ exposure to the gas or water contaminated by it.

Cornelio, who head the Archdiocese of Bhopal, told Crux that “more awareness towards this human tragedy is essential at local, state, national and international levels.”

The archdiocese organized a short prayer service to mark the anniversary of the tragedy.

“The beautiful creation is a gift of God and destroying environment for the sake of human survival is a poisonous gift to the Giver,” Father Maria Stephen said at the event.

“Killing others for the sake of one’s own success is a crime against humanity and this crime destroys the very intention and the purpose of God’s creation,” the priest added.

Cornelio said the archdiocese accompanying the victims of the Bhopal disaster since it happened.

“We have shared the pain and sorrow of the gas victims and survivors and extended material, spiritual and psychological support to the victims who feel helpless and hopeless in their lives. We are helping victims, the second and third generations,” he told Crux.

The archbishop also said the Church is working in the political sphere to ensure victims get compensation and justice.

“The survivors, their children and grandchildren, continue to suffer physical weakness, deformities, diseases and low immunity and the Church hospitals, nursing homes and other medical care centers of the Church offer our services, with little or no costs for them,” he continued.

“The COVID pandemic has increased their sufferings, in fact one of the first victims of COVID here in Bhopal was allegedly one of the survivors of the gas tragedy. The mortality rate among the COVID-19 infected gas victims is 6.5 percent, more than the normal ones, as they are more vulnerable because of the ill-effects of the poisonous gas,” Cornelio added.

This article incorporated material from the Associated Press.