120 years ago, the greatest volcanic disaster of the 20th century!

Nuée ardente du 16 décembre 1902 de la Montagne Pelée. © Alfred Lacroix

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By early 1902, Mount Beale was quiet, with only a few fumaroles appearing in the crater of the peak. Volcano In the last two years. At the foot of the volcano, to the south, the city of Saint-Pierre stretches for several kilometers along the coast and has a total population of 26,000. Martinique’s real economic and cultural capital, nicknamed the “Little Paris of the West Indies”, is not like the village it is today in Saint-Pierre.

In the beginning, a terrible activity …

From the beginning of March, the scent Sulfur It is often felt in coastal villages and on April 25, eruptions cause some ash fall in some cities. Inattention reigns, however, and undoubtedly the function for this moment is similar to that which last erupted in 1851. This is a function. GroundwaterConnected with Heat Of one Magma Degenerate in depth Groundwater Of the volcano. Also, a cruise to the summit of the volcano on April 27, and then it Caldera The dry pond, a valley in the southwestern part of the volcano, allows one to observe the partially empty lake on the White River.

Night from May 2 to 3, covered with a thick ashLightning Caused a gray fall in much of Martinique. Saint-Pierre arose in a place Fog Ash and some of the inhabitants of that field begin to leave … In the next few days, the Emissions The ash continues, as well as flooding the White River. Then, in the middle of May 5th, the wall of the dry pond caldera breaks, forming three impressive landslides one after the other in this river, and in two or three minutes, they reach the level of the factory. , A sugar estate not far from its mouth. The Waves This place has mud at a height of more than 10 meters and about fifty people have been affected!

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The Greatest Disaster of the XXAnd Century!

Magma comes to the surface the next day, which is infested with dense gray worms and a Glowing At the base of these. From this date, a Volcanic Dome Possibly formed in the abyss, a dike is now open in the Saint-Pier direction following the events of the previous day. The activity is continuous, spectacular and noisy, but estimated by a commission that unites scientists on May 7 “The relative position of the valleys and valleys that open to the sea allows us to confirm that the protection of Saint-Pierre is complete.”. About 400 people left Saint-Pierre that day on a steamship to Fort-de-France. On the same day, the eruption of the Soufrière de Saint-Vincent, a hundred kilometers away, killed more than 1,500 people and was heard in Saint-Pierre. Bad omen.

On the night of May 7 to 8, very heavy thunderstorms erupted and various rivers were flooded. They destroyed several villages, including Le Prêcheur, where about 400 victims were registered.

In the morning, 34 passengers board Fort-de-France, then many interested land at Saint-Pierre. It is Ascension Day and many others in the church … Violent eruption Occurs at the base of the volcanic dome, running southwest laterally, where the crater is open. It creates a force Pyroclastic flowA Cloud Of Gas The burning ash, which descended at a speed of 400 km / h from the southwestern part of the volcano and arrived in Saint-Pierre at 8:02 a.m., was swept across the city. Walls Still standing in the southern part. Of the estimated 28,000 in the city, only two survive: shoe maker Leon Gambier and Louis-Auguste Cypress, a prisoner protected by the thick walls of his dungeon! Survivors include sailors and crew members abruptly submerged. But 28,000 people have been affected In a few seconds … it will be the biggest volcanic disaster of XXAnd Century!

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After this paroxysm, the eruption continued in earnest. Other powerful eruptions still took place, and the crater that formed in the crater formed many fiery clouds.AvalancheIn its continuationDecline Some parts of this dome. In mid-August, the refugees were allowed to return to their city, but on the 30th of the same month, a fiery cloud reached the village of Morne Rouge, southeast of the volcano, and more than 1,000 people were affected.

The eruption continued until June 1905, But after many years people did not return to Saint-Pierre. Today it is an ordinary village, where Stigma The disaster is significant in some places …

This article is based on the best works of Solange Contour and Simone Chrétien, mostly published in the Associated Journal. Washing n ° 96 Dating May 2002. For those who want to know more, I strongly recommend reading Mount Beale wakes upThe book by Simon Cretian and Robert Bruce was published by Bobby.

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