Richard Branson says private Necker Island has been 'completely devastated' by Hurricane Irma

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Richard Branson has said his private Caribbean island Necker was “completely devastated” by Hurricane Irma.

The 67-year-old British billionaire said he and his team were safe after retreating to his concrete wine cellar as the powerful category 5 hurricane swept through his private retreat on the British Virgin Islands.

He said they were “very, very fortunate” it held firm and that whole houses and trees had disappeared in the storm when it hit on Wednesday. 

Speaking via satellite phone for a blog post on his Virgin website, Branson said it was a “traumatic time” on the British Virgin Islands. 

Branson said his whole staff slept together in two rooms as the hurricane approached (Virgin.com)

He said: “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. 

“Outside of the bunker, bathroom and bedroom doors and windows have flown 40 feet away. I’m speaking these words from a satellite phone that is just about working, but all other communications are down. 

“For those who are still in the path of Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Jose to come, I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to put safety first and prepare as strongly as possible. 

“Having seen first-hand the power of this storm, please ensure you stay inside, ideally in organised shelters or other solid concrete structures with water, supplies and emergency contact plans.”

ISS captures dramatic footage of Irma

He added that he was “worried for elsewhere in the British Virgin Islands” because his own “really strong buildings” sustained such damage.

Branson said Virgin Atlantic’s Antigua flight on Thursday had been loaded with essential items to help the recovery effort.

Virgin boss and business tycoon Branson had earlier revealed in his online blog that he would be staying on the island of Necker for Hurricane Irma, despite warnings from officials of a “potentially catastrophic” impact.

He posted pictures of furniture stacked up and hurricane blinds down on his luxury home as he braced for the category five storm.

Branson also shared photos of he and his team having a sleepover on Tuesday night and playing card games while “howling wind and rain” battered his home as the storm approached.

Furniture stacked up at Branson’s home before the storm hit

It is the second time his Necker Island home has been severely damaged after the building caught fire when it was struck by lightning caused by Hurricane Irene six years ago.

Actress Kate Winslet was on the island with Branson, his mother and 20 other guests when Huricane Irene hit in 2011. 

Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, model Kate Moss and singer Harry Styles are among the famous faces to have visited the island. Princess Diana also holidayed there.

Hurricane Irma – the most powerful ever recorded in the Atlantic – tore a deadly path through the Caribbean on Wednesday and Thursday and has killed at least 14 people. 

The island of Barbuda was reduced to wreckage, while the British overseas territory of Anguilla was among the first islands to be hit by the hurricane.

Hurricane Irma then pummelled the British overseas territory of The Turks and Caicos Islands.

States of emergency have been declared in Puerto Rico, Cuba and Florida where the storm is expected to make landfall at the weekend. 


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