History of the Mount Pelee Volcano Survivors Part 2

About the Mount Pelee survivors, history of the eruption of La Montagne volcano and the aftermath.



He took off his shirt, urinated on it, then wrapped the damp shirt around his head to keep himself from breathing in too much dust. His cell was half-filled with rubble from the prison block, which had collapsed on top of it. He curled up in a corner and tried to avoid as much of the dust as possible. The dust piled up against the door of his cell until it blocked out the little light that had been able to seep in.

Three days after the disaster, Ciparis heard voices and cried for help. Search parties were nearby, and two salvage workers rescued him. He was badly burned, but his face, hands, and feet were not injured. He was taken to Morne Rouge, where he recovered.

Ciparis was pardoned and became widely known in carnival sideshows and the Barnum and Bailey Circus as "the Prisoner of St. Pierre." Until his death in 1929, he earned his living by locking himself in an exact replica of his St. Pierre cell.

Leon Comprere-Leandre, a 28-year-old black shoemaker, was the other survivor of St. Pierre. He was sitting on the doorstep of his house in the southeastern part of the city on the morning of May 8, when he felt a terrible wind blowing. The earth trembled and the sky grew dark. He attempted to go into the house but felt his arms and legs burning. He watched people around him, refugees who had taken over his house, burn and fall dead while their clothing showed no signs of having been touched by fire. Many victims were coated with sulfuric lava, which burned hard and baked them alive.

With his legs bleeding and covered with burns, Leon Comprere-Leandre ran from his burning house to Fonds-St.-Denis, 6 kilometers east of St. Pierre. The entire city was burning. Ships in the harbor had capsized. Leandre somehow managed to escape breathing the lethal sulfur fumes which burned out people's tongues, larynges, and lungs.

Leandre was picked up by a rescue party at Le Trace and taken to a hospital in Fort-de-France. He later returned to St. Pierre as a special constable employed as part of the force guarding the ruins against looters. He lived until 1936 and died a bachelor.

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