Richard Branson to ride out Hurricane Irma in wine cellar

Richard Branson to ride out Hurricane Irma in wine cellar

The Virgin boss had insisted on remaining on the island but took to the concrete shelter with his family and staff Wednesday when worst of the 185 miles per hour winds passed over Necker Island in the Caribbean. The island of Barbuda, the first to be hit by Irma, has reportedly been all but wiped out.

Branson said all the colleagues who joined him in the wine cellar were safe, and that "very, very fortunately" the structure held firm. Necker, which Branson purchased in 1978, not only serves as the billionaire's home, but also operates as a small luxury resort.

Branson wrote in a separate blog post Wednesday that the properties were built to withstand severe weather.

Branson on Tuesday had announced that, instead of evacuating, he would stay on Necker Island and ride out the storm.

"Glad to say that all humans on Necker are ok although a lot of buildings destroyed", he wrote. Necker and the whole area have been completely and utterly devastated.

With Hurricane Irma causing "severe damage" to both the United States and UK Virgin Islands, according to UK Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan, the damage estimates are just beginning to pile up as the island chain's government will be adding even more debt onto the $6.5 billion it already owes to pensioners and creditors. "We are still assessing the damage, but whole houses and trees have disappeared", Branson wrote in a blog post using a satellite phone from Necker Island, which he has owned since 1978.

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The doors and windows outside of the wine cellar where Branson and his team sought shelter had flown 40 feet away, he said.

Unfortunately, the rest of the Necker and the surrounding islands did not have such reinforcement.

According to the Independent, not everyone in the British Virgin Islands escaped unharmed like Branson.

Branson and team hanging out in bunk beds.

He later said that the team planned to relocate to the wine cellar, adding that little of the wine was likely to remain at the end of their stay. "I would urge everyone to donate to the British Red Cross through Virgin Money Giving (who are waiving their fees in support of the appeal) to help local communities", he said.

"For those who are still in the path of Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Jose to come, I can not emphasise enough how important it is to put safety first and prepare as strongly as possible".

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