Richard Branson emerges from wine cellar after Irma 'devastated' his island

Sir Richard Branson relaxes with his crewon Necker Island, the night before Hurricane Irma hit.
VIRGIN.COM

Sir Richard Branson relaxes with his crewon Necker Island, the night before Hurricane Irma hit.

Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group who said he would ride out Hurricane Irma from his 74-acre private island in the Caribbean, has emerged from his fortified wine cellar unscathed.

"All of the team who stayed on Necker and Moskito during the hurricane are safe and well," Branson said in a blog post Thursday, which he explained was transcribed with a satellite phone after the storm brought down all lines of communication.

"We took shelter from the strongest hurricane ever inside the concrete cellar on Necker and very, very fortunately it held firm. Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by the disaster elsewhere in the [British Virgin Islands], Caribbean and beyond," he said.

Apocalyptic scenes of flattened buildings and ruined airports emerged from once-lush Caribbean islands devastated by Hurricane Irma, as the deadly storm began to lash vulnerable Haiti on Thursday and another powerful storm, Hurricane Jose, followed fast in its wake.

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About 95 percent of the tiny island of Barbuda, southeast from Necker Island, sustained damage, according to Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda. Ghastly photos and videos from St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, also known as St. Barts, showed buildings in ruin and cars and trucks almost submerged in the storm surge.

"I haven't had a sleepover quite like it since I was a kid," Branson said.
VIRGIN.COM

"I haven't had a sleepover quite like it since I was a kid," Branson said.

Branson had said earlier his compound was built with reinforced hurricane blinds designed to withstand high winds. But that wasn't the case for the surrounding area or the rest of Necker Island, his property for over 40 years.

"I have never seen anything like this hurricane. Necker and the whole area have been completely and utterly devastated. We are still assessing the damage, but whole houses and trees have disappeared," he said.

"Outside of the bunker, bathroom and bedroom doors and windows have flown 40 feet away."

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True to form, Branson used his platform to call for donations and support.

"Virgin Unite has made a donation to the British Red Cross to support the hurricane relief efforts, and we are awaiting more information about how else we can best support. I would urge everyone to donate to the British Red Cross through Virgin Money Giving (who are waiving their fees in support of the appeal) to help local communities," he said, with a message readers in the British Virgin Islands to check in on Facebook to alert family members about their safety.

Branson is the 324th wealthiest person in the world, with a net worth of about $5 billion, according to Forbes, which notes that he bought Necker Island for $180,000.

 - The Washington Post

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