Pele, Martinique: A.D. 1902
The worst eruption of the 20th century happened in its early days. Back in 1902, St. Pierre was a tourist destination on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, tucked below Mount Pele. Then, on April 23, the volcano awoke. The ground shook, and ash spewed from the top into the town below. To the horror of residents, foot-long centipedes and poisonous snakes invaded the city to escape the eruption.
The governor hastily assured the citizens that the worst was over, and convinced them to stay. He couldn't have been more wrong. On May 8, Pele blew. Gas, ash, and rock barreled into St. Pierre at more than 100 miles per hour. Of the city's 28,000 residents, only two are known to have survived.