Volcanic island in the West Indies, one of the Leeward group, a British crown colony; capital Plymouth; area 110 sq km/42 sq mi; population (2001) 4,500; (2005 est) 9,350. Montserrat produces cotton, cotton-seed, coconuts, citrus and other fruits, and vegetables. The island's population has suffered from repeated eruptions of the Soufriere volcano; the eruption in July 1997 buried the capital, Plymouth, under rock and ashes, and around 7,000 islanders were evacuated. Practically all buildings were destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in September 1989.
Prior to 1994, tourism and industries such as electronic goods, clothing, and leather goods were increasing in importance; the continuing eruptions of the Soufriere volcano since 1995 and the associated evacuations of population have, however, seriously handicapped the economy.
History The island's first European visitor was Christopher Columbus in 1493, who named it after the mountain in Spain. It was first colonized by English and Irish settlers who moved from St Christopher in 1632. It was held by the French until ceded to Britain in 1783. It became part of the colony of the Leeward Islands in 1871, and a British crown colony in 1956.
The eruption of the Soufriere volcano in late July 1997 killed around 20 people. Preparations for a possible total evacuation began after scientists warned that the volcano threatened two-thirds of the island. By mid-August there were an estimated 4,000 people still on the island – from an original population of 11,000 – most of them confined to 12 sq mi in the north of Montserrat. Several further explosions mid-August showered ash clouds and hot pumice stones.
Almost half of Montserrat's forest was destroyed by the 1997 volcanic activity, endangering much of the island's native wildlife. For example, the population of the Montserrat oriole Icterus oberi fell from 500 pairs to an estimated 100–150 pairs.
Montserrat – flag
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