Once a popular get-away destination especially after Beatles producer George Martin opened a studio here, Montserrat has been hit hard by the four elements, both from without and from within. First the wind and waves of hurricane Hugo swept through in 1989, damaging 90% of the island's structures. Then the earth and fire welled up in 1995, with the volcano of Soufriere Hills forcing the long-term evacuation of 2/3 of the island's population, and catastrophically closing the airports and seaports in June 1997. The capital of Plymouth was covered by 40 feet of ash, and much of the southern end of the island is now uninhabitable.
Government offices have since been set up in Brades on the northwest shore of the island, out of harm's way. Much of the island's population has returned, with estimates ranging from 4,700 to 9,500, compared to the pre-Hugo/Soufriere high of over 12,000.