Five Past Midnight in Bhopal: The Epic Story of the World's Deadliest Industrial Disaster

Five Past Midnight in Bhopal: The Epic Story of the World's Deadliest Industrial Disaster

4.5 11
by Dominique LaPierre, Javier Moro

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It was December 3, 1984. In the ancient city of Bhopal, a cloud of toxic gas escaped from an American pesticide plant, killing and injuring thousands of people. When the noxious clouds cleared, the worst industrial disaster in history had taken place. Now, Dominique Lapierre brings the hundreds of characters, conflicts, and adventures together in an unforgettable


It was December 3, 1984. In the ancient city of Bhopal, a cloud of toxic gas escaped from an American pesticide plant, killing and injuring thousands of people. When the noxious clouds cleared, the worst industrial disaster in history had taken place. Now, Dominique Lapierre brings the hundreds of characters, conflicts, and adventures together in an unforgettable tale of love and hope. Readers will meet the poetry-loving factory worker who unleashes the apocalypse, the young Indian bride who was to be married that terrible night, and the doctors who died that night saving others. It is a gripping, fascinating account that is already mesmerizing readers around the world.

Editorial Reviews
On December 3, 1984, a cloud of toxic methyl isocynate gas escaped from an a damaged tank in a Union Carbide plant and hovered over the ancient city of Bhopal, India. In the disaster that ensued, almost 4,000 people died, and thousands more were permanently disabled. It was the deadliest industrial accident in history. Dominique Lapierre, the author of The City of Joy, returns to India to re-create this terrifying event and its aftermath. His transfixing narrative weaves together the stories of hundreds of villagers and Union Carbide workers.
Philadelphia Inquirer
...a book no reader will forget...
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. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An overly dramatized but nonetheless absorbing account of the most devastating industrial accident in world history. French journalist Lapierre (A Thousand Suns, 1999, etc.) and Spanish reporter Moro relate the terrible tale of Bhopal, the Indian metropolis devastated by a chemical leak at a Union Carbide plant; in just a few hours, as many as 30,000 residents of the city died of the airborne poison, and perhaps half a million others were sickened. In its early pages, the tale threatens to shape up as one of good against evil, pitting unwitting villagers against greedy capitalists ("Pulpul Singh exploited the economic misfortunes of the poor. . . . With a filthy turban on his head and his dagger ever at the ready, this villain was the terror of small borrowers"), but it eventually takes a more nuanced form. Union Carbide, the American industrial giant, had established a modern chemical plant in India-not to colonize the Third World (as some leftist critics charged at the time of the 1984 accident), but at the invitation of the government, which sought new weapons against "the planetary holocaust wrought by armies of ravaging insects," as a characteristically exuberant chapter title has it. The well-intended effort was misguided to the extent that India's farmers did not rush to adopt chemical pesticides, preferring to rely on time-proven methods of predator control. Facing lower than anticipated profits, Union Carbide workers and management took shortcuts in equipping the Bhopal plant with modern safety features and in observing proper procedures for storing deadly methyl isocyanate; Lapierre and Moro refer to a suppressed company memorandum acknowledging as much, one that warned that adisaster could strike at any minute. So it did, and Union Carbide earned much bad press-deservedly, it would seem-for seeking a low-cost settlement with survivors during "four long years of haggling . . . in the absence of a proper trial." Though long and sometimes clumsy, Lapierre and Moro's narrative will draw renewed attention to a terrible event.

Product Details

Hachette Book Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.13(d)
Age Range:
13 Years

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4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There is no doubt that a huge catastrophe visited the city of Bhopal, India, in the wee hours of December 3, 1984. But was the death toll 1,754 reckoned by the Indian government? The 8,000-plus claimed by ¿independent organizations¿? Or the 16,000-to-30,000 claimed by the ambulance-chasing lawyers? More than 500,000 Bhopalis suffered and continue to suffer from the effects of the toxic cloud of hydrocyanide acid, methyl isocyanite, phosgene and other deadly gasses¿eye and lung diseases, brain, muscle, joint, liver, kidney, reproductive, nervous and immune system ailments, chronic fevers, impotence, anorexia, depression, anxiety and suicide. But was Union Carbide chiefly responsible? Was it really an accident or deliberate sabotage? How liable was the government of India, which rescinded the visas of qualified American engineers, in its rush to nationalize the workforce and management? Who deactivated safety systems and postponed, then abandoned maintenance? Twenty years later, why has the Indian government still not distributed to the long-suffering survivors and the families of the victims the $470 million paid by Carbide? This enormous tragedy features a cast of thousands. Authors Lapierre and Moro try to give the massacre a human face¿for instance, Padmini, the young woman whose fairy-tale wedding ceremony was interrupted when she was struck down by the ¿geysers of death,¿ only to be rescued from a funeral pyre, about to be set alight, her eyelids quivering. An epic tragedy, well told, that leaves many questions unanswered.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Add me! I work at the factory. I actually live there. Pls add me!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's awesome! I have a freakin ton of ponies though... You don't have to do all of them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*"Good!" She writes*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dawn slinks through the alleyway, kicking at the sludge-water collecting from the pounding rain. <p> He grumbles and glares up at the dark sky, shrouded in stormy clouds. <p> A fat raindrop splashes against his shades, making the air seem to ripple. <p> He pulls the shades off and scrubs them clean, staring down at the puddles least an unsuspecting pony pass by and stare. He quickly slips the shades back on and continues to travel through Ponyville. <p> It was quiet. <p> Abnormally quiet... <p> A couple walks by, illuminated by a lamp on a building. Their manes cling to them, soaked and glistening in the faint light. <p> Dawn hunches his shoulders and quickly make his way past. <p> He spreads his sodden wings and takes off, scattering a slew of droplets as he rose. <p> The dark blue pony was almost invisible against the darkness of the storm, only noticed by an old homeless pony when a strike of lightning lit the sky. <p> He travels up to Cloudsdale, ears flattened. <p> The wind tugs at his mane and tail, wet strands clumped together, whipping in the fiercy gale. <p> He shudders slightly and pushes against the winds, heading for a quiet, rusting building. <p> Once he reaches it, he slams the door shut and peers around at the still machines. <p> A thin smile traces his mouth. <p> The lights of the Rainbow Factory buzzed on, and the dark pony stepped into the light, smiling broader with satisfaction. <p> ~~~ <p> [ >:3 P.S. I will eventually get everpony... be patient... ~ Moone ]
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I heard the author on NPR last year and bought the novel. It is a hard book to put down as you read of the main character and her family and the extreme poverty in India. The American company that brought so much hope to India ultimately betrayed the people in the worst possible way. You will not forget this book. An important novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book will move you to tears. You will feel as if you are right there.