St. Pierre, Martinique in 1902 -- USA in 1999 and 2000 : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I don't think I have to point out the similarity between the event below and Y2K--it speaks for itself. Read it and ask yourself if history is repeating itself...

"Politicians will do almost anything to win an election, even if it means killing off your entire electorate.

"Such a case happened in 1902 in the beautiful town of St. Pierre, Martinique."

-- Kevin (, February 02, 1999


Kevin, what an amazing article. Spooky & portentious. Deja Vu all over again?

Gonna paste it here so we'll have it on archival record in case the URL goes blooey.

How An Election Killed 30,000 People

[ Wonder if the historians will write about our times "How An Erection Killed 300,000,000 People" ]

Politicians will do almost anything to win an election, even if it means killing off your entire electorate.

Such a case occurred in 1902 in the beautiful town of St. Pierre, Martinique.

Martinique is located in the Caribbean Sea, about 400 miles northeast of Venezuela.

An election was slated for May 10, 1902 which would decide who would be the next Governor. There were two groups competing for this office. In one corner, we have the ruling Progress Party whose candidate was the incumbent Governor Mouttet.

In the opposing corner, we find the newly formed Radical Party, which represented Martinique's black and mulatto majority.

It was quite the heated competition - the streets were covered with colorful political posters. It was a battle of the rich against the poor.

But even more heat was coming from the giant volcano on which the island was built - Mount Pelie.

In early April, Mt. Pelie started to rumble. It began to spew out clouds of ash and noxious fumes from its crater. The narrow streets of St. Pierre started to become buried in layers of the fine ash. The people were worried, but no one was more worried than Governor Mouttet himself.

After all, the only people with enough money to leave the island were the wealthy. If they left, he would lose the election to the Radicals. He had to do something to keep them from leaving.

He convinced the newspapers to downplay the dangers of the volcano. He even had them blame the ever-growing panic and fear on agitation by the Radical Party.

On May 3, a fissure blew on the volcano and the ash and mud destroyed a mountain village and flowed down the river that passed through St. Pierre.

The American consul dispatched a telegram to Washington. Mouttet intercepted the telegram and sent his own message that stated that the eruption was subsiding and the danger was gone.

Unfortunately, this was not true. Ash continued to rain down and roofs collapsed all around the city.

The city residents wanted to leave, but Mouttet could not afford to let this happen.

He took the next drastic step - he ordered the military to block all roads out of the city to keep the electorate in.

On May 7, the volcano Soufriire on the nearby island of St. Vincent erupted. Nearly 2,000 people died from its deadly force.

The eruption of Soufriire actually offered some comforting relief to the residents of St. Pierre - they reasoned that the eruption caused the pressure on their volcano to subside.

Mt. Pelie grew quiet.

But, this was a false sense of security.

At 7:59 the next morning, several cracking explosions were heard from Mt. Pelie.

It was the beginning of the end.

A large black cloud blew out of the volcano. Lightning bolts shot out of the billowing smoke.

Even worse, a searing avalanche of volcanic gasses and debris raced down the mountain. This glowing cloud, known technically as a nuie ardente, moved down the slopes toward St. Pierre.

With temperatures in excess of 1300 degrees Fahrenheit (700 Celsius), the avalanche moved at speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour. In seconds, St. Pierre was in flames.

All 30,000 residents, including Governor Mouttet, were boiled alive. Their clothes vaporized right off their bodies. The heat was so intense that both glass and steel were easily melted (see photograph at right).

The eruption turned would eventually prove to be the deadliest of the 20th century. When rescuers arrived to search for survivors, they only found two.

One man, 28 year old Lion Compere-Leandre, was lucky enough to have been on the outskirts of the city. His body was bleeding and burned. He was forced to watch the members of his family die a slow, tortuous death.

Yet, he was able to get enough strength together to run into town (3.5 miles away). Upon his arrival, he found everything in flames. Just the fact that a single voice could not be heard had to be the most terrifying part.

The other was a man named Auguste Ciparis, who was found in an underground dungeon. He was badly burned and had to wait three days before rescue arrived.

Why was he here?

Ciparis was sentenced to death for murder and was awaiting execution. His execution was scheduled for the morning after the eruption! Of course, his captors never came to take him away.

In a great twist of fate, the 30,000 people that sentence him to death end up being the ones killed. The man sentenced to die is the only one that survives.

This is tragic irony at its best.

Auguste was lucky enough to have his sentence commuted. He spent years traveling with the Barnum and Bailey Circus in a replica of his cell.
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-- Leska (, February 02, 1999.

Kevin, this article goes in our natural disaster file
and our Y2K file. Thank you for finding it.

Did this jar any other Forum readers?

mmmmmmm mmmmmmm mmmmmmm

-- Ashton (, February 02, 1999.

I learned about the volcano in a museum on Martinique a couple of years ago, but they didn't mention that a %$*#&@! politician was responsible for many of the deaths.

Either that Caribbean island or a neighboring one (I've forgotten which one) has no source of fresh water and must desalinate every drop. I keep thinking about them and wondering if their equipment is Y2K compliant.

-- Pearlie Sweetcake (, February 02, 1999.

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