Depending on its intensity, an eruption of mount Pelée can have major consequences for Martinique...
Volcanic risk is the result of the combination of several factors:
- The probabily that volcanic phenomena can occur with such a severity that they produce damages (the hazards)
- The presence of valued elements in areas affected by volcanic hazards (the elements at risk)
Risk= Hazards X Elements at Risk
To make it simple, the volcanic risk would be nil, if Martinique was uninhabited. The consequences of mount Pelée eruptions would be limited to the destruction of the natural environment.
Nevertheless, Martique is far to be unoccupied. The island is densily populated, and the volcano is the support of numerous resources and activities : housing, agriculture, transports, industries, services, tourism, etc...
A volcanic eruption could have major consequences for the island.
It is necessary to survey the elements at risk, in order to assess the potential effects of future eruptions. This type of analysis allows the society to be better prepared in case of a volcanic unrest. We present here some of the most significant elements at risk around Mt. Pelee volcano.
It is possible to classify the population of Martinique according to various levels of exposure to the volcanic hazards.
The communities located directly on the mountain sides are the most exposed: Grand-Rivière, Macouba, Basse-Pointe, Ajoupa-Bouillon, Morne-Rouge, Saint-Pierre and le Prêcheur accomodate nearly 20, 000 people, that is to say approximately 5% of the total population of Martinique. This zone would be evacuated in priority in the event of eruption.
Depending on the style and intensity of the eruptions, in particular in the event of a Plinian eruption, or a Mt. St Helens type blast, exposed areas would extend towards the south, and could include the communities of Carbet, Fonds-Saint-Denis, le Morne-Vert, Lorrain and Marigotr, that is to say nearly 18, 000 additional people, which would account for 10% of the total population.
Nowadays, the center and southern parts of Martinique are the most populated, they accomodate approximately 344, 000 inhabitants. This zone is exposed to average to weak levels of hazards, in particular the consequences of ash and lapili, as well as the occurrence of possible tsunami on the coasts.
The residences, and more largely all the buildings, are exposed to the volcanic risks according to their localization.
In the communities located directly on the mountainsides, the residences add up nearly 8000 units, i.e. 5% of the residences of Martinique.
In the intermediate zone, one counts 7200 residences. In the event of a Plinian or a Mt. St Helens types of eruptions, it is thus nearly 10% of the residences of the island which would be threatened by the volcano.
St. Pierre, a century later
(ph. M. Desse)