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The above photo essay shows the extraordinary damage visited on the city of Plymouth in Montserrat in August 1997 when the Soufriere Hills volcano sent a series of huge pyroclastic flows through the city burying and destroying everything in their path, killing dozens of people. In June 2002, when I visited Plymouth the place had changed little since that fateful day, it was as if time stood still and it was truly one of the most amazing scenes I have witnessed, it was like something out of a Steven Speilburg movie or the aftermath of an atomic bomb. Breaking with my usual tradition of sneaking into exclusion zones I obtained permission and went in there with the Montserrat Volcano Observatory staff along with a crew from Pioneer Productions in London filming for a Discovery Channel volcano documentary. As usual, something always goes wrong and after the tour around the city, at about 11pm that night I discovered to my horror that I had left behind, in the ruins of the airport control tower, a backpack containing my still camera and mini video camera. There was only one thing to do, sneak back in there, walking 5 kilometres in the middle of the night in total darkness so as not to be seen to retrieve the items. So much for doing it the official way to avoid sneaking in. Oh well, another day in the office.
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