The ruins of St-Pierre, after the eruption of Mount Pelee, in 1902.
“At the time of the eruption, Saint-Pierre had a population of about 28,000, which had swollen with refugees from the minor explosions and mud flows first emitted by the volcano. Legend has previously reported that out of the 30,000, there were only two survivors: Louis-Auguste Cyparis, a felon held in an underground cell in the town’s jail for wounding a friend with a cutlass, and Léon Compère-Léandre, a man who lived at the edge of the city. In reality, there were a number of survivors that made their way out of the fringes of the blast zone. Many of these survivors were horribly burned and some died later from their injuries. A number made their way to Le Carbet just south of St. Pierre behind a ridge that protected that town from the worst of the pyroclastic flow, and were rescued on the beach there by Martinique officials.
Compère-Léandre stated the following when asked about his survival:
“I felt a terrible wind blowing, the earth began to tremble, and the sky suddenly became dark. I turned to go into the house, with great difficulty climbed the three or four steps that separated me from my room, and felt my arms and legs burning, also my body. I dropped upon a table. At this moment four others sought refuge in my room, crying and writhing with pain, although their garments showed no sign of having been touched by flame. At the end of 10 minutes one of these, the young Delavaud girl, aged about 10 years, fell dead; the others left. I got up and went to another room, where I found the father Delavaud, still clothed and lying on the bed, dead. He was purple and inflated, but the clothing was intact. Crazed and almost overcome, I threw myself on a bed, inert and awaiting death. My senses returned to me in perhaps an hour, when I beheld the roof burning. With sufficient strength left, my legs bleeding and covered with burns, I ran to Fonds-Saint-Denis, six kilometers from Saint-Pierre.”
One woman, a housemaid, also survived the pyroclastic flow but perished soon after; the only thing she remembered from the event was sudden heat. She died very shortly after being discovered. A third reported survivor was Havivra Da Ifrile. Included among the victims were the passengers and crews of several ships docked at Saint-Pierre.
One passenger steamship, the Roraima, which went missing on April 26, was believed to have been engulfed by ash from a preliminary explosion. However, it reached the port of Saint-Pierre at 6:30 AM, shortly before the eruption, and was set aflame by the pyroclastic flow. It later sank; its wreck is still present offshore of Saint-Pierre; 28 of her crew, and all the passengers, except two (a little girl and her creole nurse), were killed by the cloud.” (Source: Wikipedia)