Montserrat's deserted capital is engulfed by volcano's fire

Plymouth, historic capital of the British colony of Montserrat, appeared headed for total destruction yesterday after a second day of volcanic eruption.

The town that once housed 5,000 people - evacuated to the hills, other islands or Britain two years ago - has been showered with red-hot debris from the towering Soufriere volcano. The local government offices, the police headquarters and the town's central petrol station have all been set on fire.

"Plymouth is pretty much all gone," said a helicopter pilot, Jim McMahon, after surveying the deserted capital yesterday morning. "Most of the town has now been affected one way or the other."

Scientists met yesterday to discuss the latest eruptions and decide whether the rest of the island - increasingly showered with debris since Sunday - was safe for the 5,000 or so islanders who remain, many of them in shelters.

"It's taken the heart out of Plymouth, if you will," said Phil Ellis, a spokesman for the British governor's office. "It's peppered the area with pebbles about an inch thick. The pyroclastic flow is now running easily through Plymouth since the path has been cleared by the initial flow. Many buildings have been razed. It's the worst activity since last September. We're encouraging everyone to move to higher ground."

In Britain, a benefit concert for Montserrat to be held at the Royal Albert hall in central London next month has stars such as Eric Clapton, Elton John, Mark Knopfler, Paul McCartney and Sting lined up to perform.

All 4,500 tickets were sold within 90 minutes of the box office opening last Friday. Callers were each limited to four tickets for the 15 September show at prices ranging from pounds 25 to pounds 100. It is hoped at least pounds 500,000 will be raised for the relief effort and to rebuild the island. All the musicians are giving their services for free.

The concert was the brainchild of Sir George Martin, the former Beatles producer who has a home on the island. His recording studio, where all the concert's stars have recorded, was destroyed by the first volcanic eruptions in 1995.

Announcing the relief effort for the people of the island, Sir George said: "Their warmth and kindness throughout the 10 years that Air Studios operated in Montserrat was overwhelming. For two years I have seen them suffer and live in appalling conditions with enormous courage and fortitude, and when the volcano erupted most violently in June, I knew I had to help in some way.

"I contacted many of the great artists who had recorded there and I am deeply touched by their ready response to help and perform."

The artists will play solo, in duets and all together on stage for a grand finale.

Geoff Baker, spokesman for Sir Paul McCartney, said the former Beatle was one of the first to use George Martin's studios, producing both Tug of Love there and Ebony and Ivory, his duet with Stevie Wonder.

"George is obviously a very old and dear friend from way back and this concert is the sort of thing Paul would do anyway. He loved the people when he was there. Thousands of them have been made homeless. It's like a paradise lost," Mr Baker said.

Sir George bought a plot of land and adopted the island as a second home in 1979. During the Eighties, a string of top bands played in the studio before relaxing by the pool or strolling to the beach. Dire Straits made the album Brothers in Arms and the Police recorded Synchronicity. The Rolling Stones rubbed shoulders with Duran Duran, Status Quo with Roger Daltrey of The Who.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Relations Officer

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: IT Help Desk Support

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Help Desk Support individ...

Recruitment Genius: Interim HR Advisor

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are going through an excitin...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£37500 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced Quantity Surveyor r...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable