Billionaire Richard Branson refused to leave his island in the British Virgin Islands and decided to face the category 5 storm in a concrete wine cellar.
After hours of silence on social media, he has finally re-emerged with photographs documenting the terrible destruction.
Last week, Branson’s private island Necker was revealed to be one of the land masses under Irma’s direct path. The entrepreneur made headlines as he decided not to leave, despite the imminent risks, announcing his decision on Twitter and further explaining in his blog:
“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 and his team of almost a dozen co-workers waited out the hurricane in his home, chilling out and playing games to alleviate the tension. He said everyone was “calm and upbeat.”
His social media went quiet during the storm, but after a few hours he resurfaced on his blog with pictures that documented Irma’s sweeping power. An official statement was published on Virgin’s Limited Edition site.
“We are deeply saddened by the events that have taken place in the last 24 hours and our hearts and thoughts are with our friends and family in the Caribbean. We are very grateful to be able to report that all of our team on Island have been accounted for as safe as well. Necker Island felt the effects of Hurricane Irma and sustained extensive damage, the extent of which we are still assessing. We’d like to thank all of you for your thoughts and would like to assure you that we will be keeping you along, with our family and friends, updated this week as we know more. We will do whatever we can to support and assist our local community through this extremely testing time.”
After assessing the damage, Branson and his team set out to the nearby islands of Virgin Gorda, Moskito, and Puerto Rico to help out with the salvaging and emergency efforts. All communications were down, but the Virgin records owner said he was able to use a satellite phone to send updates.
“My son Sam, the team and I will be back in the BVI, helping with supplies distribution in conjunction with the local authorities to support people on the ground. We will be handing out canned foods, water, medical supplies, sanitary supplies and other essentials to the surrounding islands. We have people on the ground in Virgin Gorda, where we are focusing lots of our efforts.”
The Virgin organization has also set up Virgin Unite, a platform where anyone can donate to help support the local communities affected.