120 years ago the greatest volcanic disaster of the twentieth century!

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At the beginning of 1902, Pelete Mountain was quiet, with a few fumarols appearing in the crater of the mountaintop. volcano During the past two years. At the foot of the volcano, to the south, the city of Saint-Pierre stretches along the beach for several kilometers and has a total population of about 26,000. The real economic and cultural capital of Martinique, nicknamed the “Little Paris of the West Indies”, Saint-Pierre at that time was not like a village today.

At first, phryatec activity …

Since the beginning of March it smells matchsticks They are often felt in coastal villages and on April 25, eruptions caused some ash to fall in some cities. However, recklessness prevails, perhaps because the activity at the moment is similar to that of the last volcanic eruption of 1851. It is activity Groundwaterassociated with the heat from one the silhouette In the depth that destabilizes Groundwater from the volcano. Moreover, a trip on April 27 to the crater of the volcano’s summit, which was later called volcanic crater From the Dry Pond, it is allowed to observe the lake that partially drains into the White River, a valley located on the southwest side of the volcano.

On the night of May 2 to 3, a thick plume of ash coveredLightning It formed, causing ash to fall over much of Martinique. Saint-Pierre wakes up in a fog Ash and some of the residents of the strip started to flee… In the following days, emissions From the ash continues, as well as the floods of the White River. Then, at midday on the fifth of May, the rupture of the wall of the dry pond caldera made three impressive mudslides one after another in this river, and in the space of two or three minutes, they reached factory level. A sugar farm is not far from her mouth. The waves The height of the mud in this place is more than 10 meters and about fifty victims!

The greatest disaster in XXAnd a century !

Magma reaches the surface the next day, as evidenced by denser ash plumes and shining at the base of those. From this date, a lava dome Possibly formed in the crater, the crater is now open in the direction of Saint-Pierre after the events of the previous day. The activity is continuous, amazing and noisy, but the committee that gathered the scientists on May 7 estimated it “The relative location of the craters and valleys that open towards the sea allows us to confirm that the security of Saint-Pierre is still perfect.”. 400 people still left Saint-Pierre that day on a steamer to Fort-de-France. On the same day, the eruption of Soufriere de Saint Vincent, a volcano a hundred kilometers away, killed more than 1,500 people and was heard in Saint-Pierre. Presentiment.

On the night of May 7-8, intense thunderstorms accompanied the volcano and caused floods in various rivers. They destroyed several villages, including the village of Le Prêcheur, where about 400 victims were recorded.

In the morning, 34 passengers take to Fort-de-France, when many curious people get off at Saint-Pierre. It’s Ascension Day and many of them are in church… violent explosion It occurs at the base of the lava dome, and turns sideways to the southwest, where the crater is open. It’s a file lava flowa Cloud from Gas and burning ash, which descended on the southwest side of the volcano at a speed of over 400 km/h and reached Saint-Pierre at 8:02 AM. walls In the southern part is still standing. Of the 28,000 people in the city, only two survive: a shoemaker named Léon Compère and Louis-Auguste Cyparis, a prisoner who was protected by the thick walls of his cell! Suddenly, the sailors who were flooded survive as well as the sailors who managed to leave. But 28,000 victims In a few seconds…it’s the biggest volcanic disaster of the 20th centuryAnd a century !

After this bout, the explosion continued intensely. Other powerful eruptions are still occurring, and the lava dome that formed in the crater has also generated a number of fiery clouds.AvalanchedistanceCollapse Certain parts of this dome. In mid-August, the refugees were allowed to return to their town, but on the 30th of the same month, a fiery cloud reached the village of Morne Rouge, southeast of the volcano, claiming an additional 1,000 victims …

The explosion continued June 1905, but the inhabitants did not return to Saint-Pierre until many years later. Today it is a humble village where scars From the catastrophe is remarkable in certain places …

This article is largely based on the excellent work of Solange Contour and Simone Chrétien, published in the Syndicate Journal. wash No. 96 dates back to May 2002. For those who want to know more, I highly recommend reading Wake up mountain pellet »a book by Simon Chretien and Robert the Bruce and published by Beaubet.

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