Cover image for Five past midnight in Bhopal
Five past midnight in Bhopal
Lapierre, Dominique.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Warner Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
403 pages ; 24 cm
Corporate Subject:
Format :


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HD7269.C452 I5254 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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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 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.

Author Notes

Dominique Lapierre is coauthor of Freedom at Midnight and The Fifth Horseman, among others. His solo works include Beyond Love and A Thousand Suns
Javier Moro is the author of The Foot of Jaipur and The Mountains of the Buddha

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

On December 3, 1984, there was a leak at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. Toxic gas, the by-product of a routine maintenance operation that was improperly carried out, spread over the city. Between 15,000 and 30,000 people would die especially gruesome deaths. Another 500,000 would be injured, their lives forever scarred. Nearly two decades later, the region surrounding the defunct plant is contaminated; the children of the area are prone to birth defects; and cancer and diseases brought on by faulty immune systems are rampant. This is the first in-depth chronicle of the event, told from the points of view of the men and women of Bhopal--plant workers, their relatives, their friends. Lapierre, whose books include The City of Joy (1985), teams up with Moro, a noted Spanish writer and journalist (and Lapierre's nephew), to produce a book that neatly balances the human story with the technical explanation of the disaster. Spink's translation from the French is smooth and natural. The authors' three-year investigation into the Bhopal disaster has produced a wealth of information. The maintenance error that caused the gas leak, for example, had previously occurred at another plant. One caveat: the authors spend a great deal of time on the period leading up to the disaster, which does not occur until nearly three-quarters of the way through the book. This is not necessarily a flaw, but it does mean that the period following the leak seems superficially covered by comparison. This minor quibble aside, the book--which has already received solid reviews in France, Spain, and Italy--is an excellent examination of an event that, almost 20 years later, is still making headlines. David Pitt.

Publisher's Weekly Review

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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Letter to the Readerp. xvii
Map of the City of Bhopalp. xx
Part 1. A New Star in the Indian Skyp. 1
1. Firecrackers That Kill, Cows That Die, Insects That Murderp. 3
2. The Planetary Holocaust Wrought by Armies of Ravaging Insectsp. 17
3. A Neighborhood Called Orya Busteep. 23
4. A Visionary Billionaire to the Rescue of Humanity's Foodp. 31
5. Three Zealots on the Banks of the Hudsonp. 37
6. The Daily Heroism of the People of the Busteesp. 41
7. An American Valley That Ruled the Worldp. 47
8. A Little Mouse under the Seats of Bhopal's Trainsp. 53
9. A Poison That Smelled Like Boiled Cabbagep. 59
10. They Deserved the Mercy of Godp. 65
11. "A Hand for the Future"p. 71
12. A Promised Land on the Ruins of a Legendary Kingdomp. 79
13. A Continent of Three Hundred Million Peasants and Six Hundred Languagesp. 83
14. Some Very Peculiar Pimpsp. 89
15. A Plant as "Inoffensive as a Chocolate Factory"p. 97
16. A New Star in the Indian Skyp. 107
17. "They'll Never Dare Send in Their Bulldozers"p. 113
18. Wages of Fear on the Roads of Maharashtrap. 121
19. The Lazy Poets' Circlep. 129
20. "Carbide Has Poisoned Our Water!"p. 137
21. The First Deadly Drops from the "Beautiful Plant"p. 147
22. Three Tanks Dressed up for a Carnivalp. 151
23. "Half a Million Hours of Work and Not a Day Lost"p. 159
24. Everlasting Roots in the Black Earth of the Kali Groundsp. 165
Part 2. A Night Blessed by the Starsp. 171
25. A Gas That Makes You Laugh Before It Kills Youp. 173
26. "You Will Be Reduced to Dust"p. 183
27. Ali Baba's Treasure for the Heroes of the Kali Groundsp. 191
28. The Sudden Arrival of a Cost-Cutting Gentlemanp. 199
29. "My Beautiful Plant Was Losing Its Soul"p. 207
30. The Fiances of the Orya Busteep. 215
31. The End of a Young Indian's Dreamp. 223
32. The Vengeance of the People of the Kali Groundsp. 229
33. Festivities That Set Hearts Ablazep. 243
34. A Sunday Unlike Any Otherp. 247
35. A Night Blessed by the Starsp. 257
Part 3. Three Sarcophagi under the Moonp. 267
36. Three Sarcophagi under the Moonp. 269
37. "What if the Stars Were to Go on Strike?"p. 277
38. Geysers of Deathp. 287
39. Lungs Bursting in the Heart of the Nightp. 295
40. "Something Beyond All Comprehension"p. 307
41. "All Hell Has Broken Loose Here!"p. 323
42. A Half-Naked Holy Man in the Heart of a Deadly Cloudp. 335
43. The Dancing Girl Was Not Deadp. 345
44. "Death to the Killer Anderson!"p. 357
45. "Carbide Has Made Us the Center of the World"p. 367
Epiloguep. 375
What Became of Themp. 391
"All That Is Not Given Is Lost"p. 397