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Five past Midnight in Bhopal

Five Past Midnight in Bhopal - Dominique Lapierre, Javier Moro One of the bad things about non-fiction is that sometimes you know the story isn't going to end well and I think that's why it's taken me over 2 years to read this book. I'd pick it up periodically and read a bit and then put it back down again.

At 5 past midnight on the 3rd December 1984 the city of Bhopal in India was enveloped in a toxic cloud of gas. That gas cloud came from Union Carbides plant which was not in operation, but was storing large quantities of dangerous chemicals. Because the plant wasn't being kept in full working order a chain of events led to an escape of gas and killed 16,000 - 30,000 people (although the indian government stopped counting at just under 1,800).

This book tells the story of the economic environment in India, how Union Carbide came to build their plant in Bhopal and how just 3 years after it was offically opened it was effectively closed down and left to rot - despite numerous warnings that saftey standards had slipped.

It's a book that brings to life the people that lived in the shadow of "the beautiful plant", like the children who spent their days riding the trains looking for scraps to help feed their families. The shanty towns that sprung up next to the plant full of people hoping to get jobs there. How the different religions lived together.

It also looks at the after effects of that terrible night in December, how the survivors still suffer and in many cases have not received any compensation for their suffering.

The copy of the book I have is 10 years old so after finishing it I googled the subject and found that in 2010 7 ex-employees were convicted of causing death by negligence - that carried a sentence of 2 years imprisonment and a fine of $2,000. The CEO of the company however has never been charged (although a warrant for his arrest has remained unserved for years).