As fate would have it, the most seriously affected areas were the densely populated shanty towns immediately surrounding the plant -- Jayaprakash Nagar, Kazi Camp, Chola Kenchi, and the Railway Colony. 98% of the 200,000 people exposed to the deadly gas cocktail were poor Hindus and Muslims, with 80% earning less than $6 (U.S.) per day and less than 2% earning more than $18 (U.S.) a day. Many families had no records verifying the number of people living in their homes at the time of the worst industrial accident in history. As a result, no one really knows how many people died that morning. Some reports estimate that one week after the accident, approximately 2,500 people had died.
Other critics believe that these reports do not accurately reflect the situation at hand, with thousands of corpses laying in the street or inside buildings, and the mass burial efforts that were undertaken immediately afterwards to prevent the spread of disease. They instead point to the fact that more than 7000 death shrouds were sold in Bhopal after the chemical release as further proof that early mortality figures are incorrect.
Regardless of statistics, in a time span of hours, a large number of innocent people died in their sleep or as they staggered blindly into streets in terrible pain. The cyanide-laced gases burned the tissues of the eyes and lungs, crossed into the bloodstream and damaged almost every system in the body. A picture is worth a thousand words. With an estimated 10-15 people continuing to die each month, the number of deaths to date is put at over 20,000, and more than 120,000 people are still in need of urgent medical attention today.