“Picking up some wreckage which contained bedding and a tool chest, I, with the help of five others who had joined me on the wreck, constructed a rude raft, on which we placed the captain. Then, seeing an upturned boat, I asked one of the five, a native of Martinique, to swim and fetch it. Instead of returning to us, he picked up two of his countrymen and went away in the direction of Fort de France. Seeing the Roddam, which arrived in port shortly after we anchored, making for the Roraima, I said good-bye to the captain and swam back to the Roraima.
“The Roddam, however, burst into flames and put to sea. I reached the Roraima at about half-past 2, and was afterwards taken off by a boat from the French warship Suchet. Twenty-four others with myself were taken on to Fort de France. Three of these died before reaching port. A number of others have since died.”
Samuel Thomas, the gangway man, whose life was saved by the forethought of Taylor, says that the scene on the burning ship was awful. The groans and cries of the dying, for whom nothing could be done, were horrible. He describes a woman as being burned to death with a living babe in her arms. He says that it seemed as if the whole world was afire.
The inflammable material in the forepart of the ship that would have ignited that part of the vessel was thrown overboard by him and the other two uninjured men. The Grappler, the telegraph company’s ship, was seen opposite the Usine Guerin, and disappeared as if blown up by a submarine explosion. The captain’s body was subsequently found by a boat from the Suchet.
Consul Ayme, of Guadeloupe, who, as already stated, had hastened to Fort de France on hearing of the terrible event, tells the story of the disaster in the following words:
“Thursday morning the inhabitants of the city awoke to find heavy clouds shrouding Mont Pelee crater. All day Wednesday horrid detonations had been heard. These were echoed from St. Thomas on the north to Barbados on the south. The cannonading ceased on Wednesday night, and fine ashes fell like rain on St. Pierre. The inhabitants were alarmed, but Governor Mouttet, who had arrived at St. Pierre the evening before, did everything possible to allay the panic.
“The British steamer Roraima reached St. Pierre on Thursday with ten passengers, among whom were Mrs. Stokes and her three children, and Mrs. H. J. Ince. They were watching the rain of ashes, when, with a frightful roar and terrific electric discharges, a cyclone of fire, mud and steam swept down from the crater over the town and bay, sweeping all before it and destroying the fleet of vessels at anchor off the shore. There the accounts of the catastrophe so far obtainable cease. Thirty thousand corpses are strewn about, buried in the ruins of St. Pierre, or else floating, gnawed by sharks, in the surrounding seas. Twenty-eight charred, half-dead human beings were brought here. Sixteen of them are already dead, and only four of the whole number are expected to recover.”