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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Imagine Paris… Obliterated Almost Instantly


Church in St. Pierre before
the 1902 Mt. Pele 

volcanic eruption.
Over a century ago, in 1902, there was a little Paris, thriving in the Caribbean, called St. Pierre, toward the Northern tip of Martinique.  It was a cultural Mecca of the Caribbean; gardens, fountains, theaters, splendid architecture and even a population of 30,000.

Today, over 110 years later, the church is
still missing major architectural elements
of its former glory.
Then, in April 1902, two separate sugar plantations and those who lived there were wiped out by volcanic ash from nearby Mt. Pelee.  Warnings for more serious eruptions threatened.

Instead of evacuating, the mayor tapped a local science teacher to support his and local business leader’s assurances that it was safe to stay.  Except for about 1,000 folks, the locals listened.  The result?  Fatal.  May 1902 only two townspeople, a cobbler and a prisoner, survive.

Despite its tragic past, St. Pierre is still stunningly beautiful.
Today, 110 years later, the town of St. Pierre population is only 5,000.  Remnants of St. Pierre’s former glory, and folly, remain as a tragically poignant warning to make and heed the call for evacuation from natural disasters in a timely manner.