Before the catastrophic volcanic eruption of May 7, 1902, people used to call Saint Pierre, a city on the island of Martinique, the Paris of the Caribbean. Looming right next to it, though, was a deadly 4,500 foot volcano called Mount Pele, which was waiting to explode.

In early April 1902, new steam vents appeared at the peak of Mt. Pele. Then, the island was hit by volcanic tremors and the mountain started spewing hot ash.

People Thought They Were Safe

The people who lived in Saint Pierre were busy with an election and they ignored the smoking mountain and tremors. People thought that the only thing they needed to worry about was hot lava, and they would have enough of time to escape if it began to flow. Certain people even came to the city from far away, just so they could see what was happening up close.

Unfortunately, the people of Saint Pierre were making a big mistake. Mount Pele was on its way to having the deadliest volcanic eruption of the 1900s.

Everyone Died Instantly

By the time the early morning hours of May 7 had arrived, the volcano blasts had grown more frequent and more violent. As the morning progressed, strong tremors hit and a 3,000 degree Fahrenheit cloud of gas was released from the volcano. Next, an avalanche came tumbling down the mountainside. The avalanche buried all of Saint Pierre in a matter of minutes. Almost everyone died instantly. Only two people are known to have survived the tragedy. One was a man being held in a prison underground. Rumor has it that the man later joined the circus.

Fifteen ships were moored in the harbor and capsized at the time of the eruption. One stayed right-side up, though, and half of its crew survived. Most of the survivors in the ship had serious burn wounds.