Life of the island was turned upside down, even geographically. The southern third was left as an uninhabitable exclusion zone, a further third declared an intermediate zone where no-one can live but some activity, the odd farmer’s field, can continue. The rest of the island’s activities are squeezed into the remaining third, previously the less developed end of the island. The government was located on a steep hillside at Brades near a small sheltered bay on the north western side of the island. With no functioning airport everything had to come in by sea to this bay. The population reduced to only 3000. The social and economic problems associated with this upheaval caused great tensions, exacerbated by an insensitive reaction from the UK Government, culminating in the response from Clare Short when the Montserratians asked for more help that “they will be asking for golden elephants next.”
The activity at the volcano eventually calmed, but with occasional large events and frequent clouds of sulphur, ash and material flows, Soufriere is still a dominant neighbour of the nervous Montserratians trying to re-establish their lives at the other end of the island. New estates have now been built on the hillsides and some returnees have swollen the population up to nearly 6000. The smaller villages down the west side have remained too, and a new capital at Little Bay below Brades is being formalised moving from emergency portacabins into proper buildings, for government, market, infrastructure. A new airport was built straddling the central ridge of the island in the north. It has been a slow process.