Hurricane Irma: Branson calls for Caribbean recovery plan

Hurricane Irma: Branson calls for Caribbean recovery plan

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson called for a recovery plan to rebuild Caribbean islands struck by Hurricane Irma which also damaged his holiday home.

The hurricane swept through Barbuda, St Martin, the British Virgin Islands, Cuba and inundated large parts of the Florida peninsula.

It was downgraded to a tropical storm yesterday as it continued to move north towards the US state of Georgia.

Sir Richard posted a series of pictures of Necker, the island which he owns, where palm trees lay across flooded gardens and workers’ homes had been flattened. Power boats and catamaran dinghies were upturned.

“We were very fortunate to have a strong cellar built into Necker’s Great House and we were lucky all of our teams who stayed on the island during the storm are safe and well,” he wrote in a blog post. “This story is about the tens of thousands of people who have lost their homes and their livelihoods.”

He posted a series of pictures on Twitter of other islands where boats were piled up in a bay and nearly every house appeared to have lost its roof.

Huge cargo ships had been hurled from the water and resorts had been decimated, he said.

“There are worrying reports of civil unrest spreading,” he wrote. “I urge everybody to stay safe, remain calm and support each other. Help is on its way.”

He said Virgin Atlantic, was flying aid to the region. His son Sam had flown to Barbados to bring in supplies aboard his company’s 105ft catamaran, Necker Belle.

“The region needs a ‘Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan” for the British Virgin Islands and other territories,” he said.

Sir Richard took shelter in a cupboard under a staircase in his home, reinforcing the shelter as best he could, The Times reported.

The worst hours were as the wall of wind, around the eye of the storm, passed over the island, he said.

“The wind was gusting over two hundred knots,” he said. In the eye of the storm, there were “perfectly clear blue skies, sunshine”, he said.

“Absolutely still. Lots of people in that time moved to a different location because their own shelter had collapsed.”

Then, as they hit the rear wall of the eye of the storm, “it was the same in reverse”.

He heard of a neighbour, hiding in a basement bathroom, blocking the door. “Three big guys only just being able to force the door shut.”

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