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Five Past Midnight in Bhopal: The Epic Story of the World's Deadliest Industrial Disaster Hardcover – June 3, 2002
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On the night of December 3, 1984, a cyanide cloud drifted over the streets of Bhopal, India, set loose by a leak in a nearby chemical plant. When the deadly fog lifted untold numbers of the city's residents--perhaps as many as 30,000, by some accounts--lay dead, while half a million others were injured. Dominique Lapierre, a French journalist and longtime champion of India's poor, joins with Spanish writer Javier Moro to recount the terrors of that night, about which the whole truth may never be known. The deaths are but one part of the authors' long, sometimes elaborate tale, which relates how the industrial conglomerate Union Carbide had come to build its vast chemical complex at Bhopal, one meant to be a glory of technology and, ironically, to save thousands of lives brought low by insect-wrought starvation. There are few villains but many heroes in the authors' account, which explores the margins at which good intentions conflict with the profit motive, at which cost-cutting omissions yield horrifically unintended consequences. It all makes for a thoughtful and disturbing book. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
As with Lapierre's City of Hope, this latest project, co-written with Spanish travel writer and journalist Moro (The Jaipur Foot), is part historical documentation and part dramatization, a modern fable depicting the communities that weathered the effects of early globalization in India. After DDT was banned in 1973, American chemical giant Union Carbide began to push Sevin, a pesticide that calls for highly toxic and unstable ingredients in its production. They built a processing plant in Bhopal, India, where a combination of poor supervision and penny-pinching tactics eventually led to the world's worst industrial disaster: on December 3, 1984, the plant sprung a leak during routine maintenance procedures. The resulting noxious vapors killed between 16,000 and 30,000 and left 500,000 permanently injured. As Lapierre and Moro recount the disaster, they weave in the story of a family of peasants forced to leave their farmland and move to the Bhopal region, where their fate intersected tragically with that of the plant. The moral of the story is familiar (what's good for Union Carbide is not so good for the world), but it still packs a bitterly ironic punch. With their canned dialogue and patronizing tone, the close-ups of Indian life are not as effective as the authors' straightforward history of the accident. Nevertheless, the inherent drama of the story keeps the pages turning, and its lessons make the book well worth picking up.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Another fault is the lack of physical description. The authors never explain why a train would pull into the Bhopal station, now full of dead and expiring people, and actually stop instead of going on. The chemical plant is never adequately described. The entire city of Bhopal is not adequately described. The reader is thrown some colonial history and that's it. Reading the book was like reading through a cardboard tube, and about as illuminating.
This was a deeply disappointing book.
It is sad that large corporations can get away with so much negligence and disregard for both nature and humanity. What is the cost of a human life in comparison to the profits of an organization ? Apparently not too much !!!
This was one of the very good reads!! Sets the context very well for a hair rousing climax. Although what I am saying here sounds like something you would feel for a fiction read , this format I feel was instrumental in conveying the gravity of the incident.
It is amazing how the author has brought in different viewpoints beginning from people in bustees to the top management of the organization.
It is a good thing this company does not exist anymore, at least in the form that created the disaster. One less company in a huge lot that has the intention to do good, however ends up doing the exact opposite since they don't want to spend time understanding the full consequences of their plans.