In Focus: Soufriere Hills Volcano
Before 1995, the small Caribbean island of Montserrat was a relatively quiet tourist destination — a British Overseas Territory with a population of 11,000. Then, the Soufriere Hills volcano came to life after remaining quiet since the 17th century. Thousands lived in the direct path of ensuing mudflows and pyroclastic flows — cascades of hot gas and rock. The capital city of Plymouth and 20 other settlements were completely destroyed. Dozens lost their lives initially, and thousands were evacuated as eruptions continued off and on for years afterward. More than 7,000 residents moved away, and tourist dollars vanished. While the volcano is still active, it has been relatively quiet since early 2010, and nearly half of the island remains a designated exclusion zone.
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