Mount Pelée Eruption (1902)

The Mount Pelée eruption of 1902 was the greatest volcanic catastrophe—La Catastrophe—of the 20th century. The main and deadliest eruption occurred on May 8, resulting in the partial destruction of Saint-Pierre, the economic capital of Martinique, and the deaths of about 28,000 of its citizens. The second eruption on May 20 annihilated what was left of Saint-Pierre. The last deadly eruption occurred on August 30, leaving about 1,085 persons dead from several other towns.

Saint-Pierre was the first town established by the French when they began occupying Martinique in 1635. Founded about 4 miles south of Mount Pelée—“bald” or “peeled” mountain—Saint-Pierre flourished, eventually becoming Martinique's industrial and commercial center and its largest town. The July 1901 census placed the total population of Martinique at 203,781, with ...

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