On the fatal morning of May 8, 1902, a large black cloud of ash was fiercely ejected from the crator. Suddenly, a violent explosion was released and a glowing cloud descended into the helpless town of St. Pierre. The glowing cloud was called the Nuee Ardente. Its a french term applied to a highly heated mass of gas charged ash which is expelled with explosive force, and hurricane speed down a mountain side. This avalanche of fiery ash quickly consumed and destroyed any and all structures. Ships in the harbour were capsized and burned.
All the residents of St. Pierre, the refugees from Le Precheur, and the passengers and crew of eighteen ships were victims of the Nuee Ardente. One vessel managed to make it to St. Lucia, one man was able to run out of town and another was saved by thickness of the prison walls.