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APRIL 7, 1906 - ERUPTION OF MOUNT VESUVIUS

Naples, April 9, 1906 - Reports of fatalities consequent the eruption of Mount Vesuvius are coming in. According to information received late tonight probably five hundred lives were lost. It is said that more than two hundred perished in the district of San Giuseppe Vesuviano, while from the ruins of a church which collapsed, owing to the weight of ashes on the roof, forty-nine bodies were extricated.

It is asserted that at San Giuseppe Vesuviano thirty-seven persons were killed by falling houses. A railway train bound for Naples was thrown from the track by showers of stones from the crater. Cavalry going to the succor of the inhabitants of the devastated section have been unable to make progress, the rain falling on ashes a foot deep having made it impossible for the horses to travel.

The sea is greatly agitated. The sky has cleared, but heavy clouds hang over the east, threatening a further downpour. The streams of lava are almost stationary. Troops are erecting barriers in the direction of Pompei to prevent further danger in that quarter.

Professor Matteucci, director of the Royal Observatory, sent a message from the observatory at 6:30 o'clock this evening, as follows:

The explosive activity of Vesuvius, which was very great yesterday and accompanied by very powerful electric discharges, has diminished. Yesterday evening and during the night the expulsion of rock ceased, but the emission of sand increased, completely enveloping me and forming a bed over ten centimetres deep, which carried desolation into this elevated region. Masses of sand gliding along the earth created complete darkness until 7 o'clock. Several blocks of stone broke windows in the observatory. Last night earthquake shocks were stronger and more frequent than yesterday and displaced the seismic apparatus. Yesterday afternoon and this morning torrents of sand fell. While I am telegraphing, several balls of tire rise without rumbling from the enlarged crater and the new crevasses.

Almost equal to the devastation wrought by the lava is the damage done by cinders and ashes, which in incredible quantities have been carried great distances. This has caused the practical destruction of San Giuseppe Vesuviano, a village of six thousand inhabitants. All except two hundred of the people had fled from the village, and these assembled in a church to attend mass. While the priest was performing his sacred office, the roof fell in and hundreds were killed or injured. The wounded were for hours without surgical aid. The only thing left standing in the church was a statue of St. Anna, the preservation of which the poor, homeless people accepted as a miracle and promise of deliverance from their peril. At Ottaviano five churches and ten houses fell under the weight of ashes and cinders, which lie four feet deep on the ground. In the fall of the buildings about twelve persons were killed and many were more or less severely injured. The village is deserted. After the evacuation of the place, the barracks and prisons fell in.

Reports from the coast and inland towns tell of terrible devastation. San Giorgio a Cremano, Portici, Resina and Torre del Greco have been almost entirely abandoned.

The inhabitants of Torre Annunziata are prepared to leave on a moment's warning. Somma Vesuviana is another village which has suffered severely. Most of the building's in the villages are of flimsy construction and have flat roofs. They are thus unfit to bear the weight of ashes and cinders that have fallen upon them. It will doubtless be found that a considerable number of people have perished by the falling of their homes. Although the eruption of the volcano is less violent than it was twenty-four hours ago, the ashes are still falling in great quantities.

The Associated Press's correspondent this evening made the round of the menaced villages. The railway and tram tracks were inches deep below volcanic ashes, and the same material made the roads impracticable for horses, so that an automobile was the only means by which the inspection of the devastated country could be made.

The scene was one of misery and terror. Smoke and ashes made breathing difficult. Slight tremblings of the earth were felt, and frequent flashes of lightning cut through the smoke. Darkness came at intervals long before nightfall. In the streets of the deserted towns the only sounds to be heard were the thud of lumps of ashes falling on the roofs and the puffing of the automobile. In the towns where people yet remain the houses are all closed, the inhabitants roaming disconsolately about the streets and gaining what comfort is possible from the carabineers and soldiers. These are the heroes of the day. They seem never to sleep or be tired, and where there is danger they are cool, strong end alert.

In the course of the trip a point was reached from which Vesuvius could be seen under its cloud of smoke. The high cone of the volcano has gone almost entirely, having been swallowed up, so that the height of the mountain is nearly six hundred feet less than formerly. On the north side of the mountain new craters have formed.

Refugees from the threatened or destroyed villages are pouring into Naples by the thousand, arriving in every description of conveyance and on foot. The roads are crowded with processions of men and women carrying crosses and crying piteously. Special railway trains, warships and steamers are employed in conveying the homeless people from their localities to Naples, Rome and Castellammare, while large numbers of people are fleeing overland in the direction of Caserta. Not fewer than fifteen thousand refugees have reached Castellamare, where the steamer Princess Mafalda is anchored. This vessel left the island of Capri with one thousand passengers, including many foreigners, on board, but she was unable to reach her destination owing to the stifling cloud of ashes and the fumes of gases from the volcano, which enveloped her a mile from the coast.

King Victor Emmanuel and Queen Helena by their activity in behalf of sufferers by the eruption, and the government is making great exertions to relieve the destitute. This work, however, is obstructed by the congestion of all means of transportation, which are monopolized in carrying people out of the zone of danger. The King and Queen and their suites arrived at Naples this morning from Rome. When the royal train reached the station, the eruption of the volcano was almost at its worst, but both the King and the Queen insisted upon starting immediately for Torre Annunziata, his majesty saying: "If Torre Annunziata is in danger it is my duly to be there."

Travelling in automobiles, the King and Queen, the Duke and Duchess of Aosta and the Princess of Schleswig-Holstein. who is a guest of the duchess, set out without delay for the stricken districts. The royal party was received with touching manifestations of gratitude, amid cheers and weeping, expressions of thanks and frantic gesticulations of joy. By the King's order there was no attempt to keep the people away from him. Women kissed the King"s hand and the Queen's gown, exclaiming: "God sent you to us." One of the women, addressing the King, cried: "If thou art our King order the volcano to stop!" The sovereigns visited Sant'Anastasia, Cercola, and Somma Vesuvana.

At one point the royal party met a small cyclone of ashes and cinders, which partly blinded, choked and stopped them. As the King's motorcar was the first and was some distance ahead of the cars in which the members of his suite were riding, it was lost for some time in the clouds of whirling ashes, and considerable anxiety was felt for his safety. It was discovered, however, that the King had ordered his automobile to be driven at full speed ahead and had crossed the path of the cyclone. A short distance further on the ashes were four feet deep, making it impossible for the party to continue the trip in the motor cars. The King and his suite descended and continued their way on foot. Later in the afternoon the royal party returned to Naples and visited the temporary lodging places prepared for the fugitives.

The conditions at Torre Annunziata and Pompei improved today, owing to the change in the direction taken by the flowing lava. Early in the day apprehension was felt for the inhabitants of the country in the vicinity of Caserta, a place of about 35,000 inhabitants, in the direction of which the lava was then flowing. The town of Nola, an old place of fifteen thousand inhabitants, twenty-two miles from Naples, has suffered severely by the fall of ashes, which were carried by the wind as far as the Adriatic Sea.

About one hundred and fifty thousand refugees from the district of Somma Vesuviana have sought shelter here and elsewhere. Four thousand persons are lodged in the Granile barracks in this city. The stream of lava which had been threatening Torre Annunziata has remained stationary since Sunday evening, so that the danger that the place would be overwhelmed appears to have passed.

When the last train was leaving the neighborhood of Boscotrecase, yesterday, a fresh crater opened near the observatory station.

The quantity of ashes and cinders thrown up by Mount Vesuvius yesterday was unprecedented. An analysis showed this discharge to be chiefly composed of iron, sulphur and magnesia. When dry, the whole region seemed to be under a gray sheet, but now, after a fall of rain, it has taken on the appereance of an immense lake of chocolate colored mud.

At many places the people were suffering from panic, and a state of great confusion existed. Some of the parish priests refused to open their churches to people who tried to obtain admittance, fearing that an earthquake would destroy the buildings when full of people. Crowds of women thereupon attacked the churches, pulled down the doors and took possession of the pictures and statues of the saints, which they carried about as protection against death.

Many people camped along the roads and in the fields outside of Torre Annunziata and Ottaviano, where they thought they would be safer than in the towns, though nearly blinded by ashes, wet to the skin by the rain, and terrorized by the gigantic flaming mass above, resembling a shimitar.

Only about two thousand out of 32,000 inhabitants of Torre Annunziata dared to remain in the town, which was patrolled by troops.

All the railway trains were delayed today owing to the tracks being covered with cinders, and telegraphic communication with all points was badly congested.

New-York Tribune, April 10, 1906