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Blue field with Union Jack in the top left corner and coat of arms in the field.
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "A people of excellence, moulded by nature, nurtured by God"
Location of  Montserrat  (circled in red)in the Caribbean  (light yellow)
Location of  Montserrat  (circled in red)

in the Caribbean  (light yellow)

Status British Overseas Territory
Largest city Brades
Official languages English
Ethnic groups
Demonym Montserratian
Government Parliamentary dependency under constitutional monarchy
 •  Monarch Elizabeth II
 •  Governor Elizabeth Carriere
 •  Premier Donaldson Romeo
 •  Responsible Ministerb (UK) James Duddridge MP
Legislature Legislative Assembly
 •  English control established 1632 
 •  Total 102 km2 (219th)
39 sq mi
 •  Water (%) negligible
 •  2012 estimate 4,900 (233rd)
 •  Density 44/km2 (153rd)
114/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2006 estimate
 •  Total $43.500 million (not ranked)
 •  Per capita $8,500 (not ranked)
Currency East Caribbean dollar (XCD)
Time zone (UTC−4)
Drives on the left
Calling code +1 664
ISO 3166 code MS
Internet TLD .ms
a. Abandoned in 1997 following a volcanic eruption. Government buildings are in Brades, making it the de facto capital.
b. For the Overseas Territories.
Topographic map of Montserrat showing the "exclusion zone" due to volcanic activity, and the new airport in the north. The roads and settlements in the exclusion zone have mostly been destroyed.

Montserrat (/mɒntsəˈræt/) is a Caribbean island—specifically in the Leeward Islands, which is part of the chain known as the Lesser Antilles, in the British West Indies. It is a British Overseas Territory. Montserrat measures approximately 16 km (10 mi) long and 11 km (7 mi) wide, with approximately 40 km (25 mi) of coastline.[1] Montserrat is nicknamed The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean both for its resemblance to coastal Ireland and for the Irish ancestry of many of its inhabitants.[2]

On 18 July 1995, the previously dormant Soufrière Hills volcano, in the southern part of the island, became active. Eruptions destroyed Montserrat's Georgian era capital city of Plymouth. Between 1995 and 2000, two-thirds of the island's population was forced to flee, primarily to Great Britain.[3] The volcanic activity continues, mostly affecting the vicinity of Plymouth, including its docking facilities, and the eastern side of the island around the former W. H. Bramble Airport, the remnants of which were buried by flows from volcanic activity on 11 February 2010.

An exclusion zone that extends from the south coast of the island north to parts of the Belham Valley was imposed because of the size of the existing volcanic dome and the resulting potential for pyroclastic activity. Visitors are generally not permitted entry into the exclusion zone, but an impressive view of the destruction of Plymouth can be seen from the top of Garibaldi Hill in Isles Bay. Relatively quiet since early 2010, the volcano continues to be closely monitored by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

A new town and port is being developed at Little Bay, which is on the northwest coast of the island. While this construction proceeds, the centre of government and businesses rests at Brades.


In 1493, Christopher Columbus named the island Santa María de Montserrat, after the Virgin of Montserrat in the Monastery of Montserrat, near Barcelona in Spain.[4]


A view of half of the coastline of Little Bay, and a glimpse of Carrs Bay, taken from partway up the headland between Little Bay and Rendezvous Bay, 2012.

Archaeological field work in 2012 in Montserrat's Centre Hills indicated there was an Archaic (pre-Arawak) occupation between 4000 and 2500 BP.[5] Later coastal sites show the presence of the Saladoid culture.[6]

In November 1493, Christopher Columbus passed Montserrat in his second voyage, after being told that the island was unoccupied due to raids by the Caribs.[7] Montserrat came under English control in 1632[8] when anti-Catholic violence in Nevis forced a group of Irish people, transported from Ireland as indentured servants, to settle in Montserrat. A neo-feudal colony developed amongst the "redlegs".[9][better source needed]

The colonists began to transport Sub-Saharan African slaves for labour, as was common to most Caribbean islands. The colonists built an economy based on the production of sugar, rum, arrowroot and sea island cotton, cultivated on large plantations manned by slave labour. By the late 1700s, numerous plantations had been developed on the island. Many Irish continued to be transported to the island, to work as indentured servants; some were exiled during the English Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.[10]

18th century

On 17 March 1768, slaves rebelled but failed to achieve freedom.[11] The people of Montserrat celebrate St Patrick's Day as a public holiday due to the slave revolt. Festivities held that week commemorate the culture of Montserrat in song, dance, food and traditional costumes.

In 1782, during the American Revolutionary War, France briefly captured Montserrat after supporting the American rebels. The French returned the island to Great Britain under the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended that conflict.[citation needed]

New crops and politics

Britain abolished slavery in Montserrat and its other Caribbean territories effective August 1834.[citation needed]

During the nineteenth century, falling sugar-prices had an adverse effect on the island's economy, as Brazil and other nations competed in the trade.[citation needed]

In 1857, the British philanthropist Joseph Sturge bought a sugar estate to prove it was economically viable to employ paid labour rather than slaves. Numerous members of the Sturge family bought additional land. In 1869 the family established the Montserrat Company Limited and planted lime trees, started the commercial production of lime juice, set up a school, and sold parcels of land to the inhabitants of the island. Much of Montserrat came to be owned by smallholders.[12][13]

From 1871 to 1958, Montserrat was administered as part of the federal crown colony of the British Leeward Islands, becoming a province of the short-lived West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962.[citation needed]

In 1979, The Beatles producer George Martin’s AIR Studios Montserrat opened. The island attracted world-famous musicians, who came to record in the peaceful and lush tropical surroundings of Montserrat.[14] The last decade of the twentieth century, however, brought two events that devastated the island.

In the early hours of 17 September 1989, Hurricane Hugo, a Category 4 storm, struck Montserrat with full force, producing sustained winds of 140 kilometres per hour (87 mph). It damaged more than 90 percent of the structures on the island. AIR Studios closed, and the tourist economy was virtually wiped out. Within a few years, the island had recovered considerably, only to be damaged again, and even more severely, six years later by volcanic activity that started in 1995.


Montserrat's coastline.

The island of Montserrat is approximately 480 km (300 mi) east-southeast of Puerto Rico and 48 km (30 mi) southwest of Antigua. It comprises 104 km2 (40 sq mi) and is gradually increasing owing to the buildup of volcanic deposits on the southeast coast. The island is 16 km (9.9 mi) long and 11 km (6.8 mi) wide, with rock cliffs rising 15 to 30 m (49 to 98 ft) above the sea and a number of smooth bottomed sandy beaches scattered among coves on the western (Caribbean) side of the island.

Montserrat has two islets, Little Redonda and Virgin, as well as Statue Rock.

Volcano and exclusion zone

Plymouth, the former capital city and major port of Montserrat on 12 July 1997, after pyroclastic flows burned much of what was not covered in ash.

In July 1995, Montserrat's Soufrière Hills volcano, dormant for centuries, erupted and soon buried the island's capital, Plymouth, in more than 12 metres (39 ft) of mud, destroyed its airport and docking facilities, and rendered the southern part of the island, now termed the exclusion zone, uninhabitable and not safe for travel. The southern part of the island was evacuated and visits are severely restricted.[15] The exclusion zone also includes two sea areas adjacent to the land areas of most volcanic activity.[16]

After the destruction of Plymouth and disruption of the economy, more than half of the population left the island, which also lacked housing. During the late 1990s, additional eruptions occurred. On 25 June 1997 a pyroclastic flow travelled down Mosquito Ghaut. This pyroclastic surge could not be restrained by the ghaut and spilled out of it, killing 19 people who were in the (officially evacuated) Streatham village area. Several others in the area suffered severe burns.

For a number of years in the early 2000s, the volcano's activity consisted mostly of infrequent ventings of ash into the uninhabited areas in the south. The ash falls occasionally extended into the northern and western parts of the island. In the most recent period of increased activity at the Soufrière Hills volcano, from November 2009 through February 2010, ash vented and there was a vulcanian explosion that sent pyroclastic flows down several sides of the mountain. Travel into parts of the exclusion zone is occasionally allowed, only by a licence from the Royal Montserrat Police Force.[17]

The northern part of Montserrat has barely been affected by volcanic activity, and remains lush and green. In February 2005, The Princess Royal officially opened what is now called the John A. Osborne Airport in the north. As of 2011, it handles several flights daily operated by Fly Montserrat Airways. Docking facilities are in place at Little Bay, where the new capital town is being constructed; the new government centre is at Brades, a short distance away.

In recognition of the disaster, in 1998 the people of Montserrat were granted full residency rights in the United Kingdom, allowing them to migrate if they chose. British citizenship was granted in 2002.


Montserrat, like many isolated islands, is home to some exceptionally rare plant and animal species. Work undertaken by the Montserrat National Trust in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has centred on the conservation of pribby (Rondeletia buxifolia) in the Centre Hills region. Until 2006, this species was known only from one book about the vegetation of Montserrat.[18] In 2006, conservationists also rescued several plants of the endangered Montserrat orchid (Epidendrum montserratense) from dead trees on the island and installed them in the security of the island's botanic garden.

Montserrat is also home to the critically endangered Giant Ditch Frog (Leptodactylus fallax), known locally as the Mountain Chicken, found only in Montserrat and Dominica. The species has undergone catastrophic declines due to the amphibian disease Chytridiomycosis and the volcanic eruption in 1997. Experts from Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust have been working with the Montserrat Department of Environment to conserve the frog in-situ in a project called "Saving the Mountain Chicken",[19] and an ex-situ captive breeding population has been set up in partnership with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Zoological Society of London, North of England Zoological Society, Parken Zoo and the Governments of Montserrat and Dominica. Releases from this programme have already taken place in a hope to increase the numbers of the frog and reduce extinction risk from Chytridiomycosis.

Montserrat is known for its coral reefs and its caves along the shore. These caves house many species of bats, and efforts are underway to monitor and protect the ten species of bats from extinction.[20][21]


The MV Caribe Queen is a ferry boat that shuttles passengers between Antigua and Montserrat several times a week.

From 1979 to 1989, Montserrat was home to a branch of George Martin's AIR Studios, making the island popular with musicians who often went there to record while taking advantage of the island's climate and beautiful surroundings; the studio closed as a result of Hurricane Hugo.[22]

Since the devastations of Hurricane Hugo and the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano, the Montserratian economy has been effectively halted. Export businesses based in Montserrat deal primarily in the selling and shipping of aggregate for construction. Imports include virtually everything available for sale on the island.

The island's operating budget is largely supplied by the British government and administered through the Department for International Development (DFID) amounting to approximately £25 million per year. Additional amounts are secured through income and property taxes, licence and other fees as well as customs duties levied on imported goods.

The electricity sector of Montserrat supplies 1.7 MW of power, produced by five diesel generators. Two exploratory geothermal wells have found good resources and a third well and geothermal plant are planned to begin construction in 2016. Together the wells by themselves will produce more power than the island consumes.[23]


As a British Overseas Territory (BOT), defence of Montserrat remains the responsibility of the United Kingdom. Montserrat is one of four of the remaining fourteen BOTs that maintains its own military unit, the Royal Montserrat Defence Force. There is also a cadet corps for secondary school students.[citation needed]


The island has a population of 5,879 (2008 estimate). An estimated 8,000 refugees left the island (primarily to the UK) following the resumption of volcanic activity in July 1995; the population was 13,000 in 1994.

Age structure

  • 0–14 years: 23.4% (male 1,062; female 1,041)
  • 15–64 years: 65.3% (male 2,805; female 3,066)
  • 65 years and over: 11.3% (male 537; female 484) (2003 est.)

The median age of the population was 28.1 as of 2002 and the sex ratio was 0.96 males/female as of 2000.

The population growth rate is 6.9% (2008 est.), with a birth rate of 17.57 births/1,000 population, death rate of 7.34 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.), and net migration rate of 195.35/1,000 population (2000 est.) There is an infant mortality rate of 7.77 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.). The life expectancy at birth is 78.36 years: 76.24 for males and 80.59 for females (2003 est.). The total fertility rate is 1.8 children born/woman (2003 est.).

Ethnic groups

Residents of Montserrat are known as Montserratians. The population consists of a number of ethnic groups: Black (88.4%), White, Dual Heritage, Creole. The island's population is mainly a mix of Irish and Africans with other minorities.

The population is predominantly, but not exclusively, of mixed African-Irish descent.[24] The number of Africans brought as slaves and Irish slaves are not known with certainty but an estimated 60,000 Irish were "Barbadosed" by Oliver Cromwell,[25] some of which likely arrived in Montserrat.


Education in Montserrat is compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 14, and free up to the age of 17.[26]


The Montserrat Cultural Centre overlooking Little Bay.

In 1977, Sir George Martin fell in love with Montserrat and decided to build the ultimate get-away-from-it-all recording studio. Opened in 1979, AIR Studios Montserrat offered all of the technical facilities of its London predecessor, but with the advantages of an exotic location.

For more than a decade, AIR Montserrat played host to classic recording sessions by a who’s who of rock, including Dire Straits, The Police, Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Sheena Easton, Ultravox, The Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, Black Sabbath and Eric Clapton.

Then, in 1989, disaster struck when Montserrat was dealt a devastating blow by Hurricane Hugo which destroyed 90% of the island’s structures and brought the studio’s glittering story to an abrupt end.

Since the eruption George Martin has been raising funds to help the victims and families on the island. The first event was a star-studded event at London’s Royal Albert Hall featuring many artists who had previously recorded on the island including Paul McCartney, Mark Knopfler, Elton John, Sting, Eric Clapton and Midge Ure. All the proceeds from the show went towards short-term relief for the islanders.[27] Martin’s second major initiative was to release five hundred limited edition lithographs of his score for the Beatles song "Yesterday". Complete with mistakes and tea stains the lithographs are numbered and signed by Paul McCartney and Martin.

The lithograph sale raised more than $1.4 million which helped fund the building of a new cultural and community centre for Montserrat and provided a much needed focal point to help the re-generation of the island.[27] Many albums of note were recorded at AIR Studios, including Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms; Duran Duran's Seven and the Ragged Tiger, the Police's Ghost in the Machine and Synchronicity (the video for "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" was filmed in Montserrat, but the song ironically was the only one on Ghost in the Machine not recorded there), and Jimmy Buffett's Volcano (named for Soufrière Hills). After sustaining severe damage from Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the studio is now a ruin.[27] Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull) recorded the song "Montserrat" off "The Secret Language of Birds" in tribute to the volcanic difficulties and feeling among residents of being abandoned by the UK government.


Montserrat’s national dish is Goat water, a thick goat meat stew served with crusty bread rolls. The Montserrat cuisine resembles to the general British and Caribbean one, as it is situated in the Caribbean zone and it is a British territory. The cuisine includes a wide range of light meats, like fish, seafood and Chicken, which are mostly grilled or roasted. Being a fusion of numerous cultures, like Spanish, French, African, Indian and Amerindian, the Caribbean cuisine is very unique, yet complex. More sophisticated meals include the Montserrat jerk shrimp, with rum, cinnamon bananas and cranberry. In other more rural areas, people prefer to eat homemade food, like the traditional mahi mahi and local breads.



Cricket is a popular sport in Montserrat. Players from Montserrat are eligible to play for the West Indies cricket team. Jim Allen was the first to play for West Indies and he represented the World Series Cricket West Indians. No other player from Montserrat had gone on to represent West Indies until Lionel Baker made his One Day International debut against Pakistan in November 2008.[28]

The Montserrat cricket team forms a part of the Leeward Islands cricket team in regional domestic cricket, however it plays as a separate entity in minor regional matches,[29] as well having previously played Twenty20 cricket in the Stanford 20/20.[30] Two grounds on the island have held first-class matches for the Leeward Islands, the first and most historic was Sturge Park in Plymouth, which had been in use since the 1920s. This was destroyed in 1997 by the volcanic eruption. A new ground, the Salem Oval, was constructed and opened in 2000. This has also held first-class cricket. A second ground has been constructed at Little Bay.[31]


Surfing was introduced by two American brothers in 1980, Carrll and Gary Robilotta. They were also responsible for naming the surfing spots on the island. Carrll wrote for the surfing newsletter The Surf Report, which was used by surfers around the globe. They both made Montserrat their home for 12 years.


Montserrat has its own FIFA affiliated football team, and has competed in the World Cup qualifiers five times but failed to advance to the finals from 2002 to 2018. A field for the team was built near the airport by FIFA. In 2002, the team competed in a friendly match with the second-lowest-ranked team in FIFA at that time, Bhutan, in The Other Final, the same day as the final of the 2002 World Cup. Bhutan won 4–0. Montserrat has failed to qualify for any FIFA World Cup. They have also failed to ever qualify for the Gold Cup and Caribbean Cup. The current national team relies mostly on the diaspora in England and in the last WCQ against Curaçao national football team nearly all their squad played and lived in England.


Montserrat has competed in every Commonwealth Games since 1994.[32]


Basketball is growing in popularity in Montserrat with Montserrat now setting up their own basketball league[33][34] The league contains six teams these are the Look-Out Shooters, Davy Hill Ras Valley, Cudjoe Head Renegades, St. Peters Hilltop, Salem Jammers and MSS School Warriors.[35] They have also built a new 800 seater complex which cost 1.5 million


Map of Montserrat's parishes: Saint Peter is top, Saint Georges centre and Saint Anthony bottom. The square marks Plymouth, the abandoned capital.

Montserrat is divided into three parishes:

  • Saint Peter Parish
  • Saint Anthony Parish
  • Saint Georges Parish

The locations of settlements on the island have been vastly changed since the volcanic activity began. Only Saint Peter Parish in the northwest of the island is now inhabited, with a population of between 4,000 and 6,000.[36][37] The other two parishes are still too dangerous to inhabit; the volcano is still active in 2013.


Little Bay, the site of the new capital. The project is funded by the[38] UK's Department for International Development.

Villages and towns that are within the safe zone are shown in boldface. Settlements known to be within the exclusion zone are shown in italics, since they cannot be accessed and are no longer habitable. See also List of settlements abandoned after the 1997 Soufrière Hills eruption.

a. De facto capital and centre of government.
b. Includes the new airport.
c. New seaport and town.
d. Official capital, now abandoned.

Notable Montserratians

See also


  1. "Montserrat". World Factbook. CIA. 19 September 2006. Retrieved 1 October 2006<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Volcano Observatory". Montserrat. Retrieved 2 October 2006<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. The Complete Guide to National Symbols and Emblems: Volume 2, page 724
  5. Cherry, John F.; and Ryzewski, Krysta; and Leppard, Thomas P.; and Bocancea, Emanuela (September 2012). "The earliest phase of settlement in the eastern Caribbean: new evidence from Montserrat". Antiquity. 86 (333). Retrieved 25 August 2013. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Reid, Basil A. (2009). Myths and Realities of Caribbean History. University of Alabama Press. p. 21. ISBN 0817355340. However, archaeological investigations of the very large site of Trants in Montserrat ... [suggest that Trants was] one of the largest Saladoid sites in the Caribbean<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Bergreen, Laurence (2011). Columbus: The Four Voyages. Viking. p. 140. ISBN 9780670023011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    At daybreak on November 10, Columbus and his fleet departed from Guadeloupe, sailing northwest along the coast to the island of Montserrat. The handful of Indians aboard his ship explained that the island had been ravaged by the Caribs, who had 'eaten all its inhabitants'. ."
  8. "Montserrat". CIA World Factbook. 23 April 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Akenson, Donald H. (1997). "Ireland's neo-Feudal Empire, 1630–1650". If the Irish ran the world: Montserrat, 1630–1730. McGill-Queen's Press – MQUP. pp. 12–57, 273. ISBN 978-0-7735-1686-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Countries and Their Cultures: Montserrat (2012), available online.
  11. Fergus, Howard A (1996). Gallery Montserrat: some prominent people in our history. Canoe Press University of West Indies. p. 83. ISBN 976-8125-25-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. The Montserrat Connection: Family history by Joseph Edward Sturge (2004)
  13. "Montserrat". Commonwealth Secretariat. Retrieved 30 January 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Montserrat". George Martin Music<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Leonard, T. M. (2005). 'Encyclopedia of the Developing World'. Routledge. pp.1083. ISBN 978-1-57958-388-0
  16. [1]
  17. "Montserrat (British Overseas Territory) travel advice". Travel & living abroad. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 19 December 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. The 'Montserrat pribby' (part one). By: Nick Johnson – 22 October 2010. Retrieved 30 November 2010 Archived 19 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  19. "Saving the Mountain Chicken"
  20. [2] Archived 6 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  21. Pedersen, Scott C., Kwiecinski, Gary G., Larsen, Peter A., Morton, Matthew N., Adams, Rick A., Genoways, Hugh H. (1 January 2009). "Scientific Commons: Bats of Montserrat: Population Fluctuation and Response to Hurricanes and Volcanoes, 1978–2005 (2009)". Retrieved 31 July 2011. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "AIR Montserrat". AIR Studios. Retrieved 5 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Does Montserrat's volcano hold the key to its future?, Gemma Handy Brades, CNN, 8 November 2015
  24. "How Irish is Montserrat (The Black Irish) by Brian McGinn".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Tangled Roots Barbadosed Africans and Irish in Barbados".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "Territories and Non-Independent Countries". 2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Bureau of International Labor Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor (2002). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2
  28. Late Show Wins It For Pakistan In Abu Dhabi Archived 31 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  29. "Other Matches played by Montserrat". CricketArchive. Retrieved 12 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "Twenty20 Matches played by Montserrat". CricketArchive. Retrieved 7 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. "Island of Montserrat". Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Retrieved 13 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. "Commonwealth Games Countries: Montserrat". Commonwealth Games Federation. Retrieved 24 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. Central America and Caribbean: Monserrat. Jeff Kowalski. 11 September 2009. Accessed 26 October 2009.
  37. As visible at The Parishes of Montserrat. Statoids. Accessed 26 October 2009.
  • To Hell or Barbados: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ireland by Sean O'Callaghan, Brandon (2000), an imprint of Mt Eagle Publications, Dingle Co. Kerry, Ireland.

External links

General information
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