Eruption of Mount Pelee in 1902



Saturday, May 10, 1902, will long figure as a day of terror and horror in the news of the world, and notably in the United States. The press report of the matter exceeded in horror any story of battle ever told:

St. Pierre, the principal city of Martinique, the gem of the Windward Islands, has been blotted out under a storm of fire and avalanches of molten rock and ashes.

With a population of upward of 25,000 persons, the city has been totally destroyed, and the survivors are reported to number less than two score, nearly all of them burned, wounded, and suffering awful tortures.

Loss of life in Morne Rouge, and other neighboring towns and parishes, it is feared, will swell the death list to the appalling total of 40,000.

No such calamity has been chronicled in recent times. For anything approximating a parallel in horror and in the extent of the disaster one must hark back to the fate of cities of the plain or to the doom of Herculaneum and Pompeii. Even under that historic outpouring from Vesuvius the loss of life was probably not so great as that which occurred on Thursday in the sun-kissed little island of the Caribbean.

Mount Pelee, a great volcano, long ago believed to be extinct, suddenly awoke from the sleep of many years. Out of the mouth of the treacherous crater, around which nestled the summer villas and the pretty homes of the wealthier of the French West Indian residents, suddenly belched smoke and flame. Then, like the discharge from a Titanic gun, the whole crest of the mountain leaped thousands of feet into the air, and from the awful caldron's mouth poured down rivers of fire, swallowing up everything that lay in their path to the sea.

Torrents of red-hot ashes buried the country road about for miles, covering it as the blizzard blankets the earth in January. Groves, orchards, towns, and city burst into flame under the shower of death, and even the shipping in the roadstead of St. Pierre had no time to up anchor and get to sea.

The Roraima, of the Quebec line, which sailed from New York on April 26th, was lost, and it is believed that all on board perished. Most, if not all, of her passengers from the north had disembarked previously at other ports.

Of the officers and crew of the British steamship Roddam nearly all are reported dead or dying. The supercargo and ten men leaped into the sea and went down as the storm of fire enveloped them.





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