Monday, August 03, 2009

Montserrat Part 2: Views of Plymouth

In the mid-1990s the Soufriere Hills Volvano, which dominates the southern part of the Caribbean island of Montserrat, became active. In 1997, the big one came and the people of the southern part of the island, including the capital Plymouth were forced to flee. Up to 29 people sadly lost their lives (19 were recovered, but another ten remain missing), but for the rest life was never to be the same again. Plymouth itself was buried beneath mud-slides and even this year pyroclastic flows made incursions into the area. Places such as St Patricks were simply taken out completely.
Some two-thirds of the population no longer lives on the island, with the majority now staying in the UK (Montserrat is a British Oversees territory). The rest have rebuilt their lives in the northern half of the island.
In a bid to never lose life again from the activities of the volcano, roughly half the island is designated an exclusion zone and no one is allowed in there.
You can see the devastation, however from the sea, and we took a boat trip southwards down the west coast from the lush richness of the north of the Emerald isle, past mating turtles, Brown Boobies, Roseate Terns and Brown Pelicans to see the old capital for ourselves.
The sight of the small town is rather overwhelming and emotional. Former residents cry for hours when they see their old home, but even for strangers such as ourselves, this was tear-jerking stuff. I don't think I have ever really set eyes on a disaster area before, but this is how Plymouth appears.
As you get closer, the first thing that strikes you is the acrid sulphurous fumes, a reminder if needed that this volcano is still very much active. Then as you round the latest wooded promintory, the grey mass of abandoned buildings held within a fug of volcanic cloud is devastating.
Every building in the town of grey is buried at least one storey deep. And on some slopes, boulders the size of houses stand next to the hulks of former homes.
Cows and bulls graze the cemetery on the edge of town and a pelican stands oblivious garden to the old pier.


Anonymous said...

Hey there Mike....only 19 persons lost their lives - can you adjust that please in the piece. Cheers

Anonymous said...

My condo is a tad bit north? of plymouth. It looks fine and is sitting on a hill but it's definitely within the exclusion zone.


Great pics though. We took Troy's tour as well.

BW said...

Thanks for the comment, Ishwar. I was told that although 19 people definitely lost their lives there were a further ten still missing and so possibly also deceased. But if this is not right, please tell me.