Montserrat, a British overseas territory in the Caribbean Sea. It is one of the Leeward Islands of the West Indies and lies 255 miles (410 km) east-southeast of Puerto Rico. The area is 38 square miles (98 km 2 ). The people are mainly of African descent. Plymouth is the capital. Montserrat was sighted by Columbus in 1493. The island was inhabited by Carib Indians when the first European settlers arrived in 1632. African slaves were imported soon after. The island was held alternately by Great Britain and France until 1783, when Britain gained permanent possession. Montserrat was devastated by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
In 1997 the Soufriere Hills volcano erupted several times, leaving two-thirds of the island uninhabitable, including the capital, Plymouth.