Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Group, rode out Hurricane Irma in the wine cellar of his private island home. But he wasn’t alone: Branson invited everyone on his team to join him in his reinforced wine cellar
Branson makes a habit of staying on his island through hurricane warnings and has weathered three storms on it in the past 30 years. But Hurricane Irma was the strongest that had hit the island yet, and there were serious concerns as to whether its structures would be sound enough.
But Branson had faith in the strength of his buildings, and he invited his team in to stay safe. The group played games and chatted during the night before the storm, and Branson describes the scene as something like a “sleepover.” As the hurricane approached, the group went down to the cellar to wait it out.
On September 7th, Branson tweeted the all-clear, announcing that he and his team had handily survived the disaster.
But he was awed by the destruction the storm had left behind. “I have never seen anything like this hurricane,” he said on his blog.
“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 continued.
Not everyone in the Caribbean was as lucky as Branson and his team.
Irma has battered the Caribbean islands on its way to South Florida. As of September 9th, 24 people had been killed by the storm on various islands.
Many of the islands have been physically devastated. Electricity is currently out in St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, and for 70% of Puerto Ricans. Much of the land on these islands is still flooded, making rescue efforts difficult. On the island of Barbuda, 90% of houses were flattened, leaving survivors without shelter.
Branson has encouraged people to donate to the British Red Cross to help those affected.
As he said on his blog, “I know we will all band together and rebuild the islands to become stronger and even more wonderful than they were before.”