19. A Rogue’s Miraculous Survival
When Pelee erupted, it grew very dark in frequent jailbird Auguste Cyparis’ cell. A short while later, hot air and fine ash began entering his cell through the door’s gratings. He tried stopping it by wetting his clothes with urine and using them to stuff the gratings. That helped a little, but still, it got hot enough to cause deep burns on much of his body. Four days after the eruption, rescuers heard Cyparis’ cries amidst the prison’s rubble.
His miraculous survival garnered worldwide attention, and Cyparis got signed on by Barnum & Bailey to tour with its circus. His cell exists to this day, preserved in the rebuilt Saint Pierre. He was lucky, but many more were not. About 30,000 lives were lost in Saint Pierre and the surrounding region, in the twentieth century’s most horrific volcanic eruption.