In 1989, Montserrat was devastated by Hurricane Hugo. Trees were uprooted, 95% of the housing stock was damaged and destroyed, agriculture was reduced to below subsistence level, and the 180ft jetty at Plymouth, the capital, was completely destroyed. However, within a few months all the public utilities were restored and the remaining trees in leaf again.
On the evening of Tuesday July 18th 1995, the Soufriere Hills volcano erupted after 400 years of inactivity, shooting a steam plume thousands of feet in the air and roaring like a jet engine. The residents of Plymouth were evacuated to the north as lava, rocks and ash descended. Activity increased in 1997 with pyroclastic flows (high speed avalanches of hot ash, rock fragments and gas) reached 2 miles down the south side of the volcano. Further activity continued during 1997/98.
8,000 of the islands population of 11,000 left, many to the UK or the surrounding islands of Antigua, St Kitts and Nevis.
The volcano continues to be active and weekly bulletins are issued by the MVO. Parts of the island that have been within a large exclusion zone are slowly being opened up, but no-one is moving back to live there as either their homes have been buried or if still standing, taken over by vegetation, and none of the utilities have been restored.
Joe’s tour was very informative. With the use of modern technology (his i-pad) he could show us photographs of how the island used to be e.g. the golf course so we could see the devastation the volcano wrought.
Joe and his family lived in a village that was evacuated in 1997. They were told to pack enough for the weekend – they are still waiting for Monday. He and his wife and son lived in a 20ftx20ft classroom for 3 years, and now live near l
Little Bay which is in the north and is now the capital and only port.
We enjoyed Montserrat apart from the anchorage – some swell coming in. Not too bad the first night but by 04.00 the next night we were rolling around in bed, trying to sleep. Eventually got up and managed to make a cup of tea and up-anchored at first light and headed for Nevis.