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Hurricane Irma: Richard Branson sits out storm in wine cellar, emerges to devastation on Necker Island

Friday September 8, 2017 - 10:53 EST
Audience submitted image
Virgin founder Richard Branson said he and his team were safe after riding out the storm in a wine cellar. - Audience submitted

Billionaire businessman Richard Branson has emerged from a wine cellar to find his private Caribbean island "completely and utterly devastated" in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

The Virgin founder hunkered down for "a sleepover" with members of his team on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands as , bringing with it winds of almost 300 kilometres per hour.

After securing the luxury residence, the group bedded down on bunks and fold-up sofas before retreating to the concrete wine cellar as the storm hit.

It was the fourth hurricane the English businessman had ridden out on the island in three decades, but he said the force of Irma was unprecedented.

"I have never seen anything like this hurricane," he after the storm passed.

"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."

Branson said all the colleagues who joined him in the wine cellar were safe, and that "very, very fortunately" the structure held firm.

He made no mention of hangovers among the group however, having posted before the storm that "knowing our wonderful team as I do, I suspect there will be little wine left in the cellar when we all emerge".

Virgin fleet joins relief effort

So far, Irma has brought widespread destruction across the Caribbean, including .

The storm has ploughed past the Dominican Republic toward Haiti after devastating a string of Caribbean islands and killing at least 10 people as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century continues on its path towards Florida.

Branson said some of the Virgin Atlantic fleet would be used to supplies and emergency workers to areas affected by the storm.

"We will do whatever we can to support and assist our local community through this extremely testing time," he said.

"If our really strong buildings sustained such damage, I am so worried for elsewhere in the BVI and Caribbean.

"Virgin Atlantic's Antigua flight today was loaded with essential items to help the recovery effort, including blankets and bottled water, and we've helped ensure disaster management relief personnel can get to where they're most needed."


© ABC 2017

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