A KILLING WIND: Inside the Bhopal Catastrophe by Dan Kurzman

A KILLING WIND: Inside the Bhopal Catastrophe

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From veteran crisis-chronicler Kurzman (Day of the Bomb--atomic bombs; The Bravest Battle--the Warsaw uprising; Genesis 1948--the first Arab-Israeli war; etc.), an inside look at the 1984 tragedy at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. The poisonous emission at Bhopal was a tragedy to many--to the residents of Bhopal, many of whom had migrated to that area looking for a higher standard of living; to Warren Anderson, head of Union Carbide, who dreamed of ending his career in a blaze of glory only to have hopes dashed by this tragedy; to the fortunes of Union Carbide. All this drama is narrated in a compelling hour-by-hour style by Kurzman, who brilliantly limns the clash between the American high-tech multinational corporation and the complexities of India's changing society. Among the shocking facts dug up by Kurzman, who had unlimited access to company documents: 8,000 people died from the effects of the poisonous MIC gas, not the 2,500 originally claimed; one Union Carbide toxicologist assured the hospitals in Bhopal that the escaping gas was no more toxic than tear gas; many victims were cremated or buried alive in the chaos (one particularly chilling scene in the book describes a woman being pulled alive from atop a funeral pyre already alit). With all the terrible scenes of gagging and vomiting, perhaps the most gruesome aspect of Kurzman's story is the posturing on the part of the various lawyers involved in the settlement case. As Kurzman writes, the gas victims of Bhopal ""had been victimized twice--once by poison and again by politics."" Indeed, to the victims, powerless and poor, the ultimate irony was in their shabby treatment (compared, say, to the relatives of the more upper-class victims of the Air india crash near ireland in 1984, who were handed over $85,000 each with little delay). A gripping story of an ill wind that blew no good.

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1987
Publisher: McGraw-Hill