1812 Volcanic eruption Soufriere

Smith (2011) details the detials of the event : Output losses were estimated at 14% of island GDP and infrastructure damage at 7% of physical capital invested in sugar estates. In contrast, casualty rates during the eruption and its aftermath proved minimal. Losses were concentrated in two northern coastal regions lying closest to the volcano: firstly,long-established plantations and estates on the Leeward side; secondly, recently-established estates on the Windward side. Leeward cultivators recovered only three-quarters of their pre-disaster output level during the 5 years after 1812. In contrast, Windward producers nearly doubled their output.

Contemporary accounts of 1812 emphasise the violent ejection of ballistic projectiles during the eruption’s peak, the extent of ash falls across St Vincent, and the numerous earthquakes experienced on the island. Damage assessments highlight destruction of estates in the vicinity of Soufrière, disruption to river courses, and loss of food crops across the island. A common feature of these commentaries, however, is the small number of reported fatalities. The most detailed first-hand testimonies consist of diary entries byplanter Hugh Perry Keane and a pamphlet published by local printer J.T. Calliard. After receiving news of volcanic activity on 27th April, Keane journeyed to view the scene and on 29th April he reports ‘the Souffrier, involved in dark clouds, & vomiting black sands’. Next day’s entry describes a series of explosions viewed
from Wallilabou: ‘in the afternoon the rousing of the Mountain increased & at 7 o’Clock the Flames burst forth, and the dreadful Eruption began e All night watching it e between 2 & 5 o’Clock in the morning, showers of stones, & earth & rocks, threatened our immediate Destruction’. On 1st May, Keane records ‘the day did not give light nearly till 9 e the whole Island involved in Gloom’. On 3rd May, travelling back to Kingstown, Keane witnessed ‘the River dried up, & the Land covered with Cinders & Sulphur’ at Wallibou, while Morne Ronde was ‘hid in Smoke & Ashes’ with ‘burnt Carcases of cattle lying every where’. Arriving in Kingston the following day, he found the town ‘in great confusion’. Further eruptive activity
occurred on 6th May, the diary noting ‘the Volcano again blazed away.’ After this date, no further references to the eruption appear and from 23rd to 28th May Keane visited the island of Grenada. Onhis return to St Vincent, the diary records ‘A very Sharp Earthquake at Midnight’ on 19th June, followed on 13th August by a report of ‘The fall of Rain for 17 Hours together in a Flood, the greatest I ever witnessed’, which washed away a road

Details of casualties on specific estates suffering severe damage provide confirmation that few deaths occurred. Duvallis was ‘totally destroyed by the eruption of Mount Soufrière’, its sugar works
‘entirely buried in this awful convulsion’ leading to the abandonment of the property. Casualties, however, were low. While fleeing slaves suffered cuts and bruises, only nine slaves perished out of 68
present on the estate. The biggest loss of life occurred on Wallibou sugar estate, which suffered from a triple strike. The main eruption damaged crops, killed cattle, destroyed structures, and cut off the
estate’s water supply by damming the river. On 28th June, the dam broke and a torrentwashed away much of the slave village. The final blow landed on 17th August when a landslide caused further
structural damage, raising total estimated losses to £12,892 sterling. While only one slave was killed at this time of the eruption, the deluge of 28th June raised the death toll to 34 out of a pre-disaster population in the region of 239 slaves

Source: https://goo.gl/asQCLY, https://goo.gl/Djvmjc


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