Mount Pelée (French: Montagne Pelée) is an active volcano on the northern tip of the French département of Martinique in the Caribbean. Though it was previously considered extinct, Mount Pelée erupted on May 8, 1902, destroying the town of Saint Pierre, about 4 miles south of the peak. Saint Pierre, which then served as the island's capital, had a population of some 25,000, which was swelled by refugees from minor explosions and mud flows emitting from the volcano, which began to erupt on April 25. There were only two survivors: a prisoner on death row in an underground cell in the town's jail (later pardoned), and a man who lived at the edge of the city. Included among the victims were the passengers and crews of several ships docked at Saint Pierre.
One ship, the Roraima, which went missing on April 26, is believed to have been engulfed by ash from a preliminary explosion.
Mount Pelée continued to wreak devastation well into 1903. On August 3, 1902, some 2,000 people are believed to have died when a lava flow struck the village of Morne Rouge.
The study of the causes of the disaster marks the beginning of modern volcanology with the definition and the analysis of the deadliest volcanic hazard: the pyroclastic flows and surges, also called "nuées ardentes" (Fr:glowing avalanches). The eruption has also lent its name to "The Pelean eruption style".
Mount Pelée is now under continuous watch by geophysicists and volcanologists.
- Saint Pierre photos (http://www.martinique-nature.com/saint-pierre-martinique.php) Mount Pelée photos (http://www.martinique-nature.com/montagne-pelee-martinique.php) (in french)