Necker Island 'devastated' by 185mph hurricane, says Branson

He says whole houses and trees have vanished

Updated: 

Necker Island 'devastated' by hurricane, says Branson

Richard Branson has given a heartbreaking, first-person account of Hurricane Irma, saying the storm has sent doors and windows "flying 40 feet away".

In the emotional piece, the billionaire Virgin boss describes how his luxurious Necker Island home has been "completely and utterly devastated".

See also: Sir Richard Branson's Thames houseboat rents for £900 a week

See also: Richard Branson retreats to cellar on Necker Island to avoid hurricane

He says whole houses and trees have vanished - and vows to do whatever possible to support and assist the local community in "this extremely testing time".

"It is a traumatic time here in the British Virgin Islands," he says.

"Hurricane Irma is continuing a path of destruction that brought the eye of the storm to Necker Island, Moskito Island and the whole surrounding area.

"All of the team situated on Necker and Moskito are safe and well.

Credits: Virgin

Mr Branson has given a heartbreaking, first-person account of the hurricane

Credits: Virgin

"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 BVI, Caribbean and beyond.

"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."

He adds: "I'm speaking these words from a satellite phone that is just about working, but all other communications are down."

Branson survived the storm along with family members and friends by bunkering down in a concrete wine cellar.

His son Sam Branson confirmed no one was hurt on Necker in an Instagram post.

Credits: PA

The billionaire says the 185mph storm has sent doors and windows "flying 40 feet away"

Credits: Richard Branson

Yesterday, Mr Branson shared photos of how he was preparing for the hurricane

He said: "Glad to say that all humans on Necker are OK although a lot of buildings destroyed and main house in uninhabitable."

Sam went on to say that his thoughts are with other Caribbean islands who have not fared as well.

"Very concerned for our friends and everyone on the neighbouring islands and people in its path," he added.

"Please don't take this hurricane lightly if it is heading your way.

"If your building is not very solid, do find somewhere safe! Homes can be rebuilt but lives can't."

Hurricane Irma reached the Leeward Islands, east of Puerto Rico, yesterday and flattened Barbuda, killing at least eight people, before hitting Necker Island.

Earlier, Richard Branson described his preparations for Irma.

Credits: Virgin.com

The billionaire has admitted "nothing can withstand" a Category 5 hurricane

Credits: AFP

A satellite image of Hurricane Irma taken yesterday

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"We are expecting to get the full force of the hurricane in around five hours' time, when we will retreat to a concrete wine cellar under the Great House," Branson wrote on his blog.

"Knowing our wonderful team as I do, I suspect there will be little wine left in the cellar when we all emerge."

The business mogul added that everyone at the estate slept in just two rooms last night as they prepared for the extreme weather.

"The strength of this hurricane is unheard of," Branson said.

"The atmosphere is eerie but beautiful. Everyone is willing the eye of the storm to veer away from the BVI in these last few hours.

"Our main concern is safety, for everyone here and for all the people in the BVI and in the path of the hurricane.

"All of us slept together in two rooms. I haven't had a sleepover quite like it since I was a kid.

"Strangely, it's a privilege to experience what is turning into possibly the strongest storm ever with such a great group of young people.

Credits: BBC

An aerial photo shows the damage of Hurricane Irma on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten

Credits: REX/Shutterstock

Damage from the storm on the island of St Barts

"We were listening to the parrots in their boxes in the next room chattering away. Watching the tortoises congregating together, as if they sense what is coming our way."

The Virgin boss described how he had survived two hurricanes on the island thanks to his specialised 'hurricane proof' buildings - but he said "nothing can withstand" a Category 5 storm.

Branson wrote: "Generally speaking, we have one hurricane in the British Virgin Islands around every 10 years.

"Fortunately, most of them drift north of us, but this one is coming straight for us, with the eye of the storm heading straight for Necker, Moskito Island and Virgin Gorda.

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Hurricane Irma will likely batter Florida by the weekend. US President Donald Trump has "offered the full resources of the federal government as Floridians prepare for Hurricane Irma"

Credits: REUTERS

People buying materials to protect their homes after Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency yesterday

"Obviously things can change – hopefully they do, as a category five hurricane hasn't hit the BVI [British Virgin Islands] full on before.

"On Necker Island we have constructed really strong buildings (with hurricane blinds) that should be able to handle extreme weather pretty well, though with a Category 5 hurricane almost nothing can withstand it.

"We had some lovely guests staying on Necker Island who have cut their trip short for safety reasons, and another group of guests have also postponed.

"I will be on Necker alongside our team, as I have been on the three times we have had hurricanes over the past 30 years."

Branson, who said he was on the island in 2010 when it was hit by Hurricanes Earl and Otto, went on to share his concerns for local residents and wildlife.

He added: "In the past, many British Virgin Islanders have shrugged off hurricanes, stayed at home and not gone to shelters.

"This time the BVI Government and the BVI Tourist board have been very active and providing advice to the local population."

Irma hit Necker Island less than two weeks after Hurricane Harvey killed 60 people when it battered the United States and surrounding territories.

It will likely batter Florida by the weekend.

Credits: AFP

People buying materials to protect their homes after Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency yesterday

Florida has declared an emergency and President Donald Trump has "offered the full resources of the federal government as Floridians prepare for Hurricane Irma".

"In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared," said Governor Rick Scott in a statement.

Water is expected to rise 9ft (3metres) above normal levels as the storm brings a predicted 10 inches of rain and "large and destructive waves".

Credits: Splash News

Irma was initially a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale

Credits: Splash News

Locals were taking no chances

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Irma was initially a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, meaning sustained winds of 130-156 miles per hour (209-251 kph) with "catastrophic" outcomes.

This includes the uprooting of trees and downed power lines, water and electricity outages, and significant property damage causing uninhabitable conditions, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The NHC said: "There is an increasing chance of seeing some impacts from Irma in the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys later this week and this weekend.

"In addition, rough surf and dangerous marine conditions will begin to affect the southeastern U.S. coast by later this week."

Credits: AFP

The forecast has been described as "extremely worrying"

The Red Cross has released an initial 120,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to help some of the islands affected and volunteers have started making their way to Florida.

Walter Cotte, Americas regional director of the International Committee of the Red Cross, described the forecast as "extremely worrying".

"We are anticipating major impacts on a number of islands, and we are preparing to respond to needs that may arise," he said.

"We are especially worried that Irma could affect areas that have been suffering with severe rainfall in the past months.

"One of the main challenges is going to be logistical, given the isolation of some the islands. We need to ensure a reliable channel for relief efforts in the aftermath of the hurricane."

Weather sayings: True or false?

Weather sayings: True or false?


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