C. C. Evans, of Montreal, and John G. Morris, of New York, who were among those rescued, say the vessel arrived at 6 o’clock. As eight bells were struck a frightful explosion was heard up the mountain. A cloud of fire, toppling and roaring, swept with lightning speed down the mountain side and over the town and bay. The Roraima was nearly sunk, and caught fire at once.
“I can never forget the horrid, fiery, choking whirlwind which enveloped me,” said Mr. Evans. “Mr. Morris and I rushed below. We are not very badly burned, not so bad as most of them. When the fire came we were going to our posts (we are engineers) to weigh anchor and get out. When we came up we found the ship afire aft, and fought it forward until 3 o’clock, when the Suchet came to our rescue. We were then building a raft.”
“Ben” Benson, the carpenter of the Roraima, said: “I was on deck, amidships, when I heard an explosion. The captain ordered me to up anchor. I got to the windlass, but when the fire came I went into the forecastle and got my ‘duds.’ When I came out I talked with Captain Muggah, Mr. Scott, the first officer and others. They had been on the bridge. The captain was horribly burned. He had inhaled flames and wanted to jump into the sea. I tried to make him take a life-preserver. The captain, who was undressed, jumped overboard and hung on to a line for a while. Then he disappeared.”
James Taylor, a cooper employed on the Roraima, gives the following account of his experience of the disaster:
“Hearing a tremendous report and seeing the ashes falling thicker, I dived into a room, dragging with me Samuel Thomas, a gangway man and fellow countryman, shutting the door tightly. Shortly after I heard a voice, which I recognized as that of the chief mate, Mr. Scott. Opening the door with great caution, I drew him in. The nose of Thomas was burned by the intense heat.
“We three and Thompson, the assistant purser, out of sixty-eight souls on board, were the only persons who escaped practically uninjured. The heat being unbearable, I emerged in a few moments, and the scene that presented itself to my eyes baffles description. All around on the deck were the dead and dying covered with boiling mud. There they lay, men, women and little children, and the appeals of the latter for water were heart-rending. When water was given them they could not swallow it, owing to their throats being filled with ashes or burnt with the heated air.
“The ship was burning aft, and I jumped overboard, the sea being intensely hot. I was at once swept seaward by a tidal wave, but, the sea receding a considerable distance, the return wave washed me against an upturned sloop to which I clung. I was joined by a man so dreadfully burned and disfigured as to be unrecognizable. Afterwards I found he was the captain of the Roraima, Captain Muggah. He was in dreadful agony, begging piteously to be put on board his ship.