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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 March 2008, 23:08 GMT
Royals see volcanic devastation
The Royal couple visited the scene of volcanic damage
The Royal couple saw the devastation for themselves

By Nick Davis
BBC News, Montserrat

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have come face to face with the devastating sight of a modern day Pompeii during the latest leg of their royal tour of the Caribbean.

It is Prince Charles's first visit to Montserrat since a major eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano devastated the island in 1997.

The royal couple were welcomed to the island at Little Bay, the proposed new capital.

The Royal Montserrat Defence Force provided the Guard of Honour and the national anthem was played by a band of school children on the steel pans.

Residents turned out to welcome the Royal couple at Little Bay

The historic Georgian capital Plymouth was destroyed in the eruption and people living in the area were evacuated to the other side of the Montserrat.

Half of the island is still uninhabitable with an exclusion zone put in place to protect the public. But the people here are slowly redeveloping what's left.

Charles and Camilla were shown around plans for Little Bay Development that it is hoped will bring back not only visitors to the island but also the thousands of Montserratians who left.

The population fell from over 12,000 before the eruptions to about 5,000 now.

The volcano has been "quiet" over the past year and it is constantly being monitored by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

The royal couple were shown around the facility and got a good look at the steam venting from the dome of Soufriere Hills.

Steaming volcano

Despite most of the south being out of bounds to most people, Charles and Camilla were given an opportunity to see the devastation for themselves.

They were allowed to go inside the unsafe area. From a vantage point on St George's Hill they viewed the steaming volcano and the ashen remains of Plymouth.

Houses, churches, and cars were all visible - partially buried by mud and ash in what looked like a modern day Pompeii.

But as well as seeing the devastation, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall also saw the redevelopment efforts happening in Montserrat.

They visited a new market and a cultural centre that have been recently built on the island.

From Montserrat they will continue their journey aboard the Leander to Jamaica, a trip which will take three days.

Once in Jamaica they will attend a number of cultural events, including a tour of the Bob Marley Museum.

SEE ALSO
Regions and territories: Montserrat
04 Mar 08 |  Country profiles
Experts work on volcano warning
29 Aug 07 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
Montserrat evacuation remembered
12 Sep 05 |  Americas

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