Union Carbide claimed that sabotage had caused the methyl isocyanate to mix with water and create the lethal release of 42 tons of methyl iscocyanate gas. The possibility of a maintenance accident leading to the gas discharge was raised, but the actual cause was never officially determined. The company refused to cooperate fully with investigating authorities, and hid their own internal findings from the public. Eventually, a picture emerged of the plant that showed ineffective or absent safety policies and equipment, along with a number of questionable practices and procedures surrounding chemical storage. Tank alarms were out of service, emergency plans were non-existent at the plant, chemical treatment equipment designed to protect against toxic gas release was inoperative, along with many other pieces of safety gear. The decision to store such hazardous chemicals in enormous tanks instead of smaller units was criticized, as was the decision to locate the plant near a populous urban center.
The company itself became an example of how not to handle an industrial disaster, as they fought against the Indian government’s demands to compensate survivors. Eventually, they settled for a little more than one tenth of the original requested amount.