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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The story that cried out to be told.
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...
Published on 27 May 2002 by Mr. I. SINHA

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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
Quite lengthy dialogue demands concentration .a harrowing and sad story with no end in sight for the thousands of victoms .
Published 5 months ago by Johanna McGavigan


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The story that cried out to be told., 27 May 2002
By 
Mr. I. SINHA "Indra Sinha" (Lot Valley, France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly engaging and fascinating book, 7 Jun 2002
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Corporate Accountability - Profit at any cost, 21 Jun 2004
By A Customer
It is commonplace to describe the Bhopal disaster as a tragedy. It is less usual to call it a crime. But, as the authors of Five Past Midnight in Bhophal establish beyond reasonable doubt, a US conglomerate called Union Carbide, in a conspiracy of greed and neglect, caused the death in agony of up to 30,000 people in the space of a few hours and the maiming of scores of thousands more, many of whom still suffer dreadfully but who survive now without hope of redress. Indeed, no one has yet been called to account for a horror that - in 1984 - momentarily shocked the world. The bare facts of what happened are straightforward, though the lessons are of transcending significance. In 1980, Union Carbide, under licence from the Indian Government, opened a chemical plant in Bhopal to produce a novel insecticide, Sevin, which they promised would open a new era of progress for India's poverty-stricken farmers. Unhappily - though Union Carbide was at pains to conceal the fact - Sevin contained a volatile chemical, methyl isocyanate, which was lethal to humans. Against the persistent advice of its most qualified engineer, Union Carbide insisted on placing the fertiliser plant in the crowded heart of the poorest part of a poor city in one of India's poorest states, Madra Pradesh. But far from asking what might happen if something went wrong, Bhopal rejoiced at the arrival of a saviour in the form of this great American company: the plant would mean jobs and unimaginable prosperity. "To work for Carbide," one Indian employee said later, "was to belong to a caste apart. We were known as the "lords'." But there weren't many jobs and they didn't last long. By 1983, a drought meant that India's peasant farmers could not afford to buy the new insecticide. Demand for Sevin crashed. Back at company headquarters in Charlottesville, the Union Carbide bosses ordered that their faraway Bhopal plant be put on a "care and maintenance" status. To this end, they also ordered that the principal safety systems used to monitor the temperature of the tanks which contained MIC should be switched off. This was a fatal and, in the light of all known evidence, criminal decision. The impeding disaster was not without prophets. An enterprising local journalist, basing his information on private conversations with despairing scientists and engineers from the plant, repeatedly raised the alarm with articles under headlines like "Bhopal On The Brink Of Disaster". He was ignored, not only by Union Carbide but also by the local political leadership, which had invested much vote-winning capital in the plant. There was no excuse for what was to happen. Five minutes after midnight on December 3, 1984, one of the MIC tanks exploded. Within moments, a green fog of stinking, lethal gas was drifting through the crowded bustees and Bhopal had become a charnel house of dead and dying humanity. Dominique Lapierre and his co-author Javier Moro (in a fluent translation from the French by Kathryn Spink) write without hyperbole but with a compassion which is all the stronger for being understated. Five Past Midnight in Bhopal is peopled by heroes and villains, whose lives are woven into the fabric of a book which switches frequently and tellingly from a technical but gripping analysis of a mega-disaster to a vivid and informed portrait of day-to-day life in the bustees. In the best traditions of what has become an almost defunct form of journalism, the evidence is meticulously sifted and assembled in a narrative which is detached but profoundly disturbing. And there are lessons: all those apologists for global capitalism who argue that "a light regulatory touch" is all that is required to ensure universal prosperity and justice should be forced to read this book from start to finish. Unless they are like the guilty and evidently shameless men who ran Union Carbide (which has long since been gobbled up by an even bigger predator) they will emerge from the experience chastened. I hope so. Otherwise, the next avoidable Bhopal will provide the excuse sought by extremists to vindicate their own hideous acts of revenge against the next symbol of "global capitalism" which they hold responsible for the ills that assail humanity on our fragmented and embittered little planet.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read, 25 April 2014
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This review is from: Five Past Midnight in Bhopal (Paperback)
Quite lengthy dialogue demands concentration .a harrowing and sad story with no end in sight for the thousands of victoms .
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Five Past Midnight in Bhopal by Javier Moro (Paperback - 3 Feb 2003)
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