The Deadly Eruption Of Mount Pele - 5/7/1902

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Volcanic eruptions, scientists don’t know exactly what causes them or how to predict them, but we all know when this happens it’s time to run for the hills. If you even have enough time to run, that is. Probably the most famous and deadly volcanic eruption was the catastrophe of Pompeii in 79 AD. Mount Vesuvius, near the Bay of Naples, erupted nearly 50 times before the cataclysmic event, but it’s most deadly eruption claimed nearly 2,000 lives. But there have been other massive and tragic eruptions, most notably Martinique’s Mount Pele. 

On May 7, 1902 Mount Pele began the most deadly eruption known to the 20th Century. The next day, the Paris of the Caribbean, Saint Pierre, was completely wiped off the map. Mount Pele, which means bald in French, stood at a height of 4,500 feet and was located on the north side of the Caribbean island, Martinique. About one month prior on April 2, new steam pockets were sited on Mount Pele’s peak, which loomed over the city of Saint Pierre. Three weeks later, tremors on the island intensified and Pele spit out a huge cloud of ash.

Residents of the island failed to take the mountains warning seriously, even people from outside of the city went there to watch the action. Many residents believed that if Mount Pele erupted with lava, they would have plenty of time to flee the city, since Lava tends to move at a slower pace. Then on May 7, the active volcano intensified dramatically and the blasts of ash grew stronger and happened more frequently. During the night there were many strong tremors that occurred and a massive cloud of gas shot out of the peak with a temperature of more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Ultimately, in the early morning hours a tremendous eruption sent an avalanche of boiling ash down the mountain and straight onto the city.

Within minutes, Saint Pierre was completely covered and nearly everyone suffered an instantaneous death. Remarkably, there were only two known survivors. One of these “chosen-people” was being held captive in an underground cell, being a prisoner saved his life. Legend says that this prisoner went on to be a main circus attraction, taking his talents of survival on the road until his dying day. Additionally, there were 15 ships in the harbor that were capsized by the eruption. Auspiciously, one ship somehow managed to stay afloat and half of the crew survived. But for those who did survive, the majority suffered severe burns. And thus, when nature calls...respond. 

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