Located in the picturesque land of the Caribbean is the island of Montserrat which is an overseas territory belonging to the British Empire. This place belongs to the Leeward islands which is a part of Lesser Antilles, a chain of islands in the West Indies. Many inhabitants of this place are of Irish descend and that is the reason why Montserrat is also called as The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean. Surrounded by water on all sides there is not much of land available for the island to stretch itself. It’s length is 16 km long while the width of the island stands at just 11 km. However, it has a long coastline measuring approximately 40 km.
Although a teeny-weeny island floating in the bluish-green water of the vast ocean, Montserrat has never been overlooked as any other island. It had caught the attention of even the most famous sailor and adventurer Christopher Columbus, who used it as a resting place after being informed that it was uninhabited. ‘Santa Maria de Montserrat’ was the name given to the island by Columbus after the Monastery of Montserrat, located in present-day Catalonia, Spain.
In 1632 the place came to be controlled by England. There were also some Irish who made Montserrat their home after being driven away in the anti-Catholic riots at Nevis. From here on, the island made a lot of economic progress. It was cultivating and exporting many different commodities and was also earning by way of tourism. In the 1970s, the producer of Beatles, George Martin opened his new recording studio at Montserrat and named it AIR Studios Montserrat. Since then the island began attracting many musicians and band members to come, compose and record their songs in the serene tranquility of this island. However, one major natural calamity completely destroyed the throbbing life of this land. That was the volcanic eruption.
The island of Montserrat was always home to a volcano, but it was dormant and did not pose a threat to the lives of the many citizens. But one fine day, in the month of July 1995, this volcano began showing signs of a huge and major eruption. It threw out gravel, rocks, ash along with hot molten lava that would burn and destroy anything and everything that came in its path. The air was filled with thick black smoke billowing from the mountainous eruption. Such was the magnitude of this volcanic activity that rocks and ash were thrown up to 20 feet high in the air. This natural hazard wreaked normal lives and caused a lot of damage. Many people lost their lives, houses were destroyed or completely buried under the layers and also some people were rendered homeless. Not to mention, all economic establishments like shops, cafes, business centres and banks were reduced to a rubble, which is why people also lost their jobs and were soon unemployed. Hospitals and schools could not function efficiently too. Even the airport was damaged and the docking facilities at the port were affected. Obviously, this hindered trade, both export and import and even reduced the number of tourists who would otherwise be seen swarming the island. In short, the economy of the island had come to a complete standstill.
The city of Plymouth which is the island’s capital was also destroyed. Many people were evacuated from their homes and put up in temporary shelters. However, with the destruction of the economy due to the volcano eruption, and with absolutely no proper housing, electricity or sanitation facilities, many people decided it was best to leave the island and look for work elsewhere. The volcano did not go hush after this burst. There were many aftershocks which were reported due to the continuous movement of the land. There was also some other minor eruptions which were seen in the late 1990s. One eruption which happened in the year 1995 was sudden and it reportedly killed 19 people while many other residents suffered burn injuries.
Although some braveheart citizens decided to return back to their homes and start with their lives afresh and anew, most of the island now remains abandoned. Farms were destroyed and even to this day, you will find many houses which are either partially or completely buried under the ash. The activity of the volcano was seen during the first initial years of 2000s also, but it was only the venting of ash in the air. The ash spreads in the northern and western direction and it was in these two directions that most of the damage occurred. But a still northern part of Montserrat remained untouched by this brutal destruction and is still lush green.
The airport was officially opened in February 2005 and is now named as the John. A Osbourne Airport. Most of the flights operating in and out of the island are handled by Fly Montserrat Airways. Even shipping services are now slowly resuming and coming back to normalcy. The docking facilities are available at Little Bay which is also the new capital town of the emerald island. However there is still construction activity going on here, and just a little distance away is Badres which is the new Government Centre.
The task of building the new capital city is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development.