Moro, Javier 1955-
MORO, Javier 1955-
Male. Born 1955, in Madrid, Spain.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Warner Books, Inc., 1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
Senderos de Libertad (title means "Footpaths of Freedom"), Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1992.
El Pié de Jaipur (title means "The Foot of Jaipur"), Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1995.
La Mundialización de la Pobreza (title means "Poverty of the World"), Galaxia Gutenberg (Barcelona, Spain), 1999.
(With Dominique Lapierre) Il était minuit cinq à Bhopal, Laffont (Paris, France), 2001, translation by Kathryn Spink published as Five Past Midnight in Bhopal, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Also author of Las Montañas de Buda (title means "Mountains of Buddha"), Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain).
Javier Moro's Spanish-language titles focus on large subjects, including world poverty and the deforestation of the Amazon. He wrote Il était minuit cinq à Bhopal, the original French version of Five Past Midnight in Bhopal, with his uncle, Dominique Lapierre. Lapierre is the author of City of Joy, which is about life in the slums of Calcutta and which was adapted for film.
The subject of this collaboration is the story of history's deadliest industrial disaster, which occurred in Bhopal, India on December 3, 1984, and which led to the death of an estimated 30,000 people, with more than a dozen dying each month from its effects decades later. While some called the incident an accident, others called the release of deadly gas from Bhopal's Union Carbide plant a crime. Union Carbide developed the pesticide Sevin in the 1960s; India was viewed as the ideal place to build a new Sevin manufacturing plant, the idea being that the pesticide could be marketed to the local agricultural community. The Bhopal plant was similar to their plant in West Virginia, but the conditions were very different. Bhopal does not enjoy the same abundance of water and power, nor was there a skilled work force to run the plant. Indian engineers and technicians were trained in the United States and new technical manuals were developed. According to Moro and Lapierre's study, however, the quality of materials used in building the Bhopal plant were inferior, and equivalent safety equipment was not put in place. Upon inspection, the plant was found to have many defects, some serious. Union Carbide downplayed any risk, and the Indian government told the local people that "medicine for sick plants" rather than toxic substances was being manufactured there.
In fact, the manufacture of the pesticide Sevin depends upon methyl isocyanate (MIC), a substance so deadly that in the United States safety precautions taken in moving it are greater than those adhered to in the transport of nuclear waste. MIC is so volatile that contact with a few drops of water will cause a deadly reaction.
One year after the plant began operation, a machine operator died when a few drops of toxic gas squirted onto his clothing, and a gas leak one month later resulted in the poisoning of twenty-five more workers. These accidents were investigated, and protests made about Union Carbide's noncompliance with its own safety rules and Indian law. A newspaper reporter wrote articles about the machine operator's death and how licensing procedures had been altered in a such a way as to imply collusion between the company and the local authorities. Still, Union Carbide was seen as a benefactor by the people, not only because it was providing jobs, but also because it was contributing to the community financially, and the warnings went unheeded.
The Bhopal plant ultimately proved to be unprofitable. The manager who had been responsible for plant safety was recalled to the United States, and cost-cutting measures began. Workers were laid off and their jobs filled by other less-well-trained workers who could not read the instruction manuals written in English. When stainless steel piping in the plant was replaced, ordinary steel was used. Quality checks were made less frequently, and the fire detection system became inoperable. When production ceased, sixty-three tons of methyl isocyanate remained on site in three storage tanks. One tank was filled to capacity and heating up because the plant's refrigeration system had been turned off.
On the night of the incident a chemical leak from the storage facility sent a cloud of toxic gas over the nearby slums. The gas split into various substances, the most deadly being hydrocyanide acid. Upon contact, corneas burned, lungs exploded, and nasal membranes were perforated. According to Asian News reporter Steve Hammond, "Lapierre and Moro chronicle how thousands, men, women, and many terrified little children, met their grotesque, disgusting deaths." Postmortems are also quoted from.
William K. Tabb wrote in OnEarth that the authors "weave together the personal narratives of a huge cast of characters," including the story of Padmini, an Indian girl whose family moved to Bhopal after their tiny farm was invaded by black aphids. Her wedding took place on the night of the incident. Padmini was nearly buried in one of the mass graves when a student who was helping dispose of the bodies noticed that her hands and feet were warm. Tabb explained that "the book's intensely emotional focus on the story's characters is of the sort that made Lapierre's 1985 book, City of Joy, an international bestseller." The end of Padmini's tale is part of the book's conclusion.
Union Carbide had never provided Bhopal medical authorities with the details of MIC's composition, either before or after the accident, and so treatment plans were never formulated. Three quarters of the population continue to be affected by the exposure, and disease and birth defects were commonplace in the years following the incident.
Union Carbide denied all responsibility and claimed the leak had been caused by worker sabotage. Only a small percentage of the 475 million dollar civil verdict ever benefited those who were affected by the disaster. No one was ever tried, but the Indian government continues to pursue Warren Anderson, Union Carbide's chairman at the time, who took refuge in the United States.
In David Vinjamuri's review of Five Past Midnight in Bhopal for Persimmon Online, he wrote that the reason the authors have resurrected this incident is because it did not generate the outrage and reforms it should have. Vinjamuri noted that "unlike less deadly but more widely covered catastrophes such as Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Bhopal did not lead to the creation of new safety standards for an industry or generate a large body of commentary. Whereas Chernobyl terrified Europeans from France to Sweden with elevated radiation counts in soil and cow's milk and the Exxon Valdez offered newsworthy images of America's last pristine wilderness disappearing under a sea of sludge, Bhopal was treated as a 'third world' issue."
America reviewer Olga Bonfiglio wrote that "Bhopal is an excellent case study of what can happen when people put belief before concrete evidence, ambition before risk, profit before people, and public relations before facts. Lapierre and Moro have done a great service to their readers and the global community, especially the poor. Their book should be required reading for students, scholars, policy makers, and all concerned citizens, because it exposes the effects of global capitalism on local communities and reveals the new world we have become."
Half of all the royalties for Five Past Midnight in Bhopal were donated to the Dominique Lapierre City of Joy foundation for the support of humanitarian work in India.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, February 10, 2003, Olga Bonfiglio, review of Five Past Midnight in Bhopal, p. 27.
Booklist, April 15, 2002, David Pitt, review of Five Past Midnight in Bhopal, p. 1362.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2002, review of Five Past Midnight in Bhopal, p. 385.
Kliatt, September, 2003, Katherine E. Gillen, review of Five Past Midnight in Bhopal, pp. 39-40.
Library Journal, May 15, 2002, John F. Riddick, review of Five Past Midnight in Bhopal, p. 109.
OnEarth, fall, 2002, William K. Tabb, review of Five Past Midnight in Bhopal, pp. 37-39.
Publishers Weekly, April 22, 2002, review of Five Past Midnight in Bhopal, p. 65.
Asian News,http://www.theasiannews.co.uk/ (March 1, 2003), Steve Hammond, "Armageddon in Bhopal."
International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal,http://www.bhopal.net/ (November 15, 2003).
Persimmon Online,http://www.persimmon-mag.com/ (winter, 2003), David Vinjamuri, review of Five Past Midnight in Bhopal.*