We all know dangerous volcanos can be. This is not just because of the molten lava and its violent explosions. The fumes and ashes emitted after an eruption can be dangerous to us too. Mount Pelee’s eruption in 1902 left only two survivors. Who were they?
There were two known survivors of the Mt. Pelee eruption; Léon Compére-Léandre and Ludger Sylbaris. Sylbaris was in jail for a brawl and he was placed in solitary confinement. During the eruption, his cell kept him safe.
Who is Léon Compére-Léandre?
Léon Compére-Léandre was a humble shoemaker from Saint-Pierre. When Mt. Pelee erupted, and the town was destroyed, he was at the edge of the city. Quite far from the commotion. There isn’t much information about Léandre since he retreated from the public after the incident.
I felt a terrible wind blowing, the earth began to tremble, and the sky suddenly became dark. I turned to go into the house, with great difficulty climbed the three or four steps that separated me from my room, and felt my arms and legs burning, also my body.
I dropped upon a table. At this moment four others sought refuge in my room, crying and writhing with pain, although their garments showed no sign of having been touched by flame.
At the end of 10 minutes one of these, the young Delavaud girl, aged about 10 years, fell dead; the others left. I got up and went to another room, where I found the father Delavaud, still clothed and lying on the bed, dead. He was purple and inflated, but the clothing was intact.
Crazed and almost overcome, I threw myself on a bed, inert and awaiting death. My senses returned to me in perhaps an hour, when I beheld the roof burning. With sufficient strength left, my legs bleeding and covered with burns, I ran to Fonds-Saint-Denis, six kilometres from St. PierreLéon Compére-Léandre
Rescuers found him in Fort de France and he was then labeled as a madman back then. Shortly after, he was deputized by the police to protect the ruins from looters. (Source: Altas Obscura)
Who is Ludger Sylbaris?
He was born in 1875 and was a quite the trouble maker. He was convicted felon who often picked fights and was constantly dunk. In May 7, 1902 he got arrested for another brawl. The authorities were fed up with his antics that they placed him solitary confinement. His cell was a tiny space that was practically buried half-way underground. It had no windows, and only a very narrow slit under the door.
When Mt. Pelee erupted, he was in the cell. Safe from the havoc of the explosion. However, he didn’t escape unharmed, he suffered from horrible burns since the cell heated up to a thousand degrees. He tried to stop the heat from entering by closing the slit under the door but he couldn’t. He was found four days later when a rescue team heard his cries. (Source: Altas Obscura)
What Happened to Sylbaris After the Eruption?
Sylbaris’ story is definitely one for the record. People were so amazed by it that Barnum & Bailey hired him to travel with them in their circus. He wasn’t hired as an act, but he was a rare relic. Back then he claimed to be the only remaining survivor of Mt. Pelee’s eruption.
How Many People Were Killed in the Eruption?
The eruption of Mt. Pelee was so destructive. There is an estimated number 30,000 to 40,000 casualties at the time, but it could be more. The volcano literally flatted the city of Saint-Pierre. Today, the cell of Ludger Sylbaris can be visited on the island. Even if a thousand years have already passed, the town never truly recovered from the tragedy. (Source: Altas Obscura)