Page last updated at 12:14 GMT, Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Timeline: Montserrat

A chronology of key events

1493 - Navigator Christopher Columbus sights the island which he names after a Spanish abbey.

Volcanic ash covers the capital Plymouth
Volcanic eruptions have made the capital uninhabitable

1632 - Montserrat becomes an English colony.

1782 - French invaders take possession, having previously captured the island for short periods in 1664 and 1667.

1783 - Under the Treaty of Versailles, Montserrat is returned to Britain.

1871 - Montserrat becomes part of the Leeward Islands colony. The federation is dissolved in 1956.

1958-62 - Montserrat is part of the short-lived Federation of the West Indies.

1989 - Hurricane Hugo causes widespread damage.

Police investigation into offshore finance industry leads to several arrests. Many banking licences are revoked.

1992 - Investigation into revived offshore finance industry results in closure of most offshore banks.

Volcano emergency

1995 18 July - Chances Peak volcano erupts for the first time in 350 years. Thousands are forced to evacuate. Many take up temporary residence in "safe areas" in the north; others flee to neighbouring Caribbean islands, New York and Britain.

August - Government declares a state of emergency.

December - Britain assists with rehabilitation programmes and grants millions of pounds in development aid.

1996 April - Britain announces that Montserratians will be granted residency and the right to work in the UK for up to two years.

1997 25 June - Soufriere Hills volcano erupts with devastating effects. Two-thirds of the island is left uninhabitable and 19 people are killed. Plymouth, the capital, is abandoned. Montserrat's airport is closed, the island is accessible only by helicopter or boat.

1998 - Britain announces that Montserratians can apply for permanent residency.

Left to right: Governor Debra Barnes Jones, Princess Anne, Chief Minister John Osborne
Britain's Princess Anne (centre) opened the island's new airport terminal in 2005

2000 - Montserrat is put on an international list of territories deemed to be uncooperative in the fight against money-laundering. It is removed from the list in 2002 after promising to improve transparency.

2001 July - Eruption of the Soufriere Hills volcano causes widespread disruption.

2002 May - British Overseas Territories Act grants British citizenship to Montserratians.

2003 July - Largest volcanic eruption since Chances Peak in 1995 destroys many buildings on the edge of the safe zone.

2004 August - US Department of Homeland Security revokes "temporary protected status" granted to US-based Montserratians in 1995.

2005 July - Gerald's Airport opens, replacing the W H Bramble airport which was destroyed in 1997's volcanic eruption.

2006 May/June - Elections: Lowell Lewis is sworn in as head of a coalition government after no one party gains enough seats to govern.

2009 September - Reuben Meade's Movement for Change and Prosperity wins six of nine seats in parliamentary elections. Mr Meade becomes chief minister; a post he served in from 1991 - 1996.

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