Fire Mountain of Martinique

DATELINE: Trouble in Paradise

Rubble and bodies, after pyroclastic flow!

In May of 1902 was, perhaps, the most devastating and bizarre volcanic explosion ever known in world history. On a paradise of pleasure in the Caribbean, the entire town of Saint-Pierre was wiped out in 3 minutes.

Only one man survived, and he was in a prison cell with walls over a meter thick. He was found 4 days later with terrible burns. There had been a shock wave first that raced through the town before pyroclastic gas choked victims.

People died of burns, with their clothes fully intact. It was bizarre.

Thirty thousand people died hideously in place:  no lava, no ash buried them: they died from gas flows of 1000 degrees that rushed down the volcano. Some people burned up and fell down on Sunday morning, attending church on a holy day to end Carnaval season.

Some people blew apart from inside their bodies: it was a pyroclastic flow, relatively unknown back then. This was not your classic volcano out of Hollywood special effects. It was more like Dante’s Inferno.

For weeks there had been cannon-fire explosions, lightning storms, and the officials of the town refused to order an evacuation.

Back then, Mont Pelee was considered the “debonair” volcano: placid, sleeping, and seldom doing much damage apart from the horrid smell of rotten eggs that permeated the area.

When Mont Pelee awoke, it killed everything in eight square miles. It must be a haunted area.

This documentary even features actual photos and movie newsreel from that May of 1902. It was considered divine punishment for the revels and immorality of the week before when Mardi Gras outrages included lifting up the skirt of a statue of the Blessed Virgin.

If you want to see a disaster that has been little documented, listen to expert volcanologist Mark Davis as he relates the devastation. A fascinating and horrific hour depicting three minutes of hell.