Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group and 324th richest person in the world, according to Forbes, shunned suggestions that he should leave his private island in the Caribbean as Hurricane Irma approached.
“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,” Branson wrote in a blog post.
He said that guests on the island have curtailed their stay for safety reasons, but declared that he would not move from his spot, no matter how devastating the storm was that approached.
“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.” At the same time, he issued caution for fellow British Virgin Island stayers, saying, as if knowing that his time was coming, “Whatever happens, keep inside, away from the ocean and away from flying debris.”
The storm hit Branson Wednesday night. He noted that he and his team, who decided to lodge themselves in the wine cellar, had experienced “howling wind and rain” as they slept together in two rooms.
“I haven’t had a sleepover quite like it since I was a kid,” he posted on Twitter.
“Strangely, it’s a privilege to experience what is turning into possibly the strongest storm ever with such a great group of young people,” he said.
He noted that his team was “calm and upbeat,” and said that he planned to retreat to the wine cellar once the storm struck. And as it did, Branson remained silent for several hours, belaying any form of communication.
As the hurricane has torn through other Caribbean islands, all of them have suffered remarkable damage. Barbuda has been declared by its Prime Minister as “barely habitable.” At least eight people have already died.
Shortly before dawn on Thursday, after Irma had struck, Branson reemerged by making a post to his company website:
“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.”
Please pray for those persons who are caught in the path of Hurricane Irma. Find out what has happened to other islands caught in Irma’s fury.