Five past Midnight in Bhopal

by Dominique Lapierre and Javier Moro

US editionUK edition
French editionJapanese edition

Dominique Lapierre& Javier Moro have written a devastating indictment of Carbide's activities in Bhopal leading up to the gas leak. This is why the company must be brought to court. Follow the links above to get straight to the book at Amazon. Part of the royalties go to medical relief for the gas survivors. See also Dominique's article, Mercy for the Martyrs of Bhopal!

Read the article in Italian, translated by Andrea Cardone.

 

Customer reviews from amazon.co.uk

The story that cried out to be told
27 May, 2002
Reviewer: Indra Sinha (indra.sinha@virgin.net) from Sussex, UK


Dominique Lapiere and Xavier Moro follow in the tradition of Dominique's "City of Joy" with this skilful telling a story which was in great danger of being simply forgotten. The Bhopal gas tragedy and its aftermath are the greatest ever scandal of the corporate world: a chronicle of staggering negligence crowned by a giant American corporation's utter indifference for the suffering of its victims. Dominique and Xavier show how Union Carbide ignored advice not to build a pesticides plant handling deadly poisons in the middle of a densely populated city, how its sales miscalculations and subsequent attempts to force its Indian subsidiary to cut costs led directly to the tragedy in which tens of thousands died in the most horrifying circumstances. The book brings to life for us the bastees (slum neighbourhoods) of Bhopal near which the factory was built, their vibrant life and many of their characters: Gangaram the leper, Pulpul Singh the moneylender, little Padmini the tribal girl from Orissa whose wedding took place on what was to become known as "The Night of Gas" or simply "That Night".

We are also introduced to the people who built and ran the deadly pesticides plant, and are helped to understand the complex sequence of decisions and blunders which led year by year, week by week and finally, minute by minute, toward catastrophe. As a result we feel the full horror of what happened at midnight on 2 December 1984, as cocktails of deadly gases began drifting in clouds through the densely populated city lanes, killing some ten to twenty thousand immediately (many of them with eyes and mouths on fire, drowning terrified in their own body fluids), leaving behind more than half a million injured. How the hospitals of Bhopal were crowded with Carbide's refugees, thousands of poor people, some coughing up their lungs, others rendered incontinent by the poisons with faeces and urine running down their legs. You would think that such people, who were innocently leading their lives and had done nothing to deserve this hideous punishment, should by now (eighteen years after the disaster) have been handsomely compensated, and given effective medical treatment. Yet for the majority of gas victims nothing has been done. In their Epilogue Dominique and Xavier show how virtually from day one, Carbide began trying to evade responsibility for its actions. How, to exculpate itself, it invented a "sabotage" theory (a shameful piece of PR, entirely invented and several times discredited and disproved yet in which it still persists). They show how Carbide (now merged into Dow) manipulated legal systems, judges and governments with shameless cynicism and has so far managed to evade justice. Meanwhile, its half a million victims, among them some of the poorest people on the planet, have been denied proper compensation and medical care. To this day the company has never said exactly what gases leaked, and one reason for that is that it has never appeared in court (Union Carbide is officially a "fugitive from justice" in India having failed to turn up to answer charges in the Bhopal court), it has never been compelled to face questioning under oath, and the evidence related to the world's worst ever chemical disaster has to this day never been publicly heard. This book will open people's eyes to the reality of what unchecked and unaccountable corporate power means. It is a very important text. It must be read.

A thoroughly engaging and fascinating book
7 June, 2002
Reviewer: (kaustav@kaustav.uk.com) from London, UK


The Union Carbide disaster was truly a grave tragedy of the modern industrialised world. Lapierre presents the events which lead up the disaster of 3rd December 1984 with in-depth detail. His description of the chemical processes, the reasoning behind where the factory was located and the political wrangling which went on before and after the factory was established gives the reader a broad insight in to events leading up to the disaster. Lapierre describes in vivid detail both how Carbide, as a company, insisted on high standards, yet failed to carry through their own doctrines on safety and let the factory in Bhopal fall apart. Lapierre continues to revealing Carbide's own problems with their factory in Charleston, Carolina where similar smaller scale leaks caused human damage and death. The pictures contained in the book are in places shocking and reveal the true extent to human suffering caused by the deadly gases expelled from the factory in Bhopal. What really lifts this book up is the description of the villagers from the various "bustee's" around the factory sight. You really begin to know each one of the characters and at times the pivotal roles they played amongst the villages. A tragic reality which the book reveals is how the west exploit, even today, the developing countries and use them as testing grounds for some of the most destructive and dangerous substances known to man. Even after the Carbide disaster, almost immediately afterwards, the next pesticide marketing campaign kicked off showing that the cost of human life in India is often regarded as negligible by so many foreign investors and firms. I have found some of Lapierre's previous works rather repetitive but I must hand it to him with this book. He has written a magnificent account of events in the Bhopal disaster and I would highly recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in what is one of the worst chemical disasters the world has ever seen.