As it makes its way north, Hurricane Irma is causing havoc and extreme damage to parts of the Caribbean and now the U.S. At one point, the hurricane was so strong in the Caribbean that it was identified as a Category 5, breaking the record for the most powerful storm ever detected in the open Atlantic.
While people have been advised to evacuate areas that might be affected, some have decided to tough it out. One person in particular who has been quite vocal about the hurricane is Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. Branson and some of his Virgin team decided to stick it out and take cover at Branson’s Necker Island home in the British Virgin Islands. Branson himself shared before-and-after updates through his blog and on social media starting on Sept. 5 before the storm made its way to the private island.
It’s tradition for Branson to coop up at his home on Necker Island and stick it out through major hurricanes -- he’s done so three times throughout the past 30 years, and this record-breaking storm was no different. On Sept. 5, as Hurricane Irma approached, Branson shared to Twitter that he and his Virgin team would be staying on the island.
Branson explained in a blog post how they were preparing. “We have constructed really strong buildings (with hurricane blinds) that should be able to handle extreme weather pretty well,” he wrote.
Adding some fun to the situation, Branson shared how the team was feeling just hours before the storm, describing them as “calm and upbeat” -- playing games, watching wildlife and having a massive sleepover.
Just because they were able to make the most of the experience doesn’t mean they weren’t prioritizing safety. Branson urged people in the hurricane’s path to take appropriate shelter and stay informed. “Have a plan for where you can stay, have a go-bag with disaster supplies and have a family emergency communication plan,” he wrote.
Sharing his team’s plans of moving to a concrete wine cellar for safety, Branson jokingly wrote in his blog post, “I suspect there will be little wine left in the cellar when we all emerge.”
After Irma hit, on Sept. 7 Branson became vocal again to share that he and his team had made it through the hurricane. Then it was time to assess the damage and begin relief efforts. In a blog post labeled “Hurricane Irma,” Branson wrote, “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. I’m speaking these words from a satellite phone that is just about working, but all other communications are down.” (He was dictating his blog to a staff member located elsewhere.) He urged everyone to stay safe.
While they continued to wait for more information about the damage, Branson didn’t waste time, and quickly, Virgin partnered with the British Red Cross to help provide relief and aid to those affected.
By Sept. 8, Branson began sharing photos of the Irma aftermath and updates from the BVI. “The boats are piled up like matchsticks in the harbour. Huge cargo ships were thrown out of the water and into rocks. Resorts have been decimated. The houses have their roofs blown off; even some churches where people sheltered have lost roofs,” he shared in another blog post.
The team traveled to neighboring islands to bring water and supplies. In the same blog post, Branson called upon agencies and governments to do everything they could in providing aid to those impacted.
Now, Branson is still traveling to islands and countries throughout the Caribbean to raise awareness, help people and rebuild communities. “This story is about the tens of thousands of people who have lost their homes and their livelihoods,” he wrote in his blog post, “Recovering from Hurricane Irma.” “We have seen first-hand just how ferocious and unforgiving this storm was.”
In his updates, he shows the damage from the storm on Necker Island; however, he also points to the others who have been affected. He is also calling for a “Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan” for the BVI and other territories, which “will aid in recovery, sustainable reconstruction and long-term revitalisation of the local economy.”