Richard Branson was among the thousands of individuals caught in the pummeling wind and rain of Hurricane Irma over the weekend.
The billionaire founder of Virgin Group took shelter with his family in a wine cellar in Puerto Rico to ride out the storm, and he took to social media afterward to show the extensive damage sustained by the massive storm all over the Caribbean, including his privately owned Necker Island.
“Hurricane Irma really is storm of the century – but urge all in path of Hurricane #Jose to prepare & stay safe too,” he captioned one image of dozens of boats piled up in the harbor, blown about by the high 180 mph winds.
“Necker damage huge, but BVI #Irma story is not about Necker – about 1000s of people who’ve lost homes & livelihoods,” he captioned another, which showed downed palm trees and parts of the home strewn about the yard.
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) September 10, 2017
“As you can see from the photos, much of the buildings and vegetation on Necker [Island] has been destroyed or badly damaged,” he wrote in a blog post to the Virgin site Monday. “We felt the full force of the strongest hurricane ever in the Atlantic Ocean. But we are very fortunate to have a strong cellar built into Necker’s Great House and were very lucky all of our teams who stayed on Island during the storm are safe and well.”
“This story is about the tens of thousands of people who have lost their homes and their livelihoods,” he continued. “We have spent the past two days visiting team members who live on Virgin Gorda and as many people as possible, distributing aid, water and supplies.”
The British media mogul added that he had visited several of the other British Virgin Islands (BVI) after the storm and saw “first-hand how ferocious and unforgiving this storm was.”
Branson said that he planned to work with various government and aid agencies to bring help to the islands affected by the storm, and would continue to personally help with the recovery effort on the ground.
President Trump approved a major disaster declaration for Florida Sunday and ordered federal aid to help Florida, and the British government has loaned $42 million in relief funds for the islands; both have been criticized for not doing enough.
In his blog, Branson also took the opportunity to point out the undeniable link between climate change and the frequent, recent natural disasters, including Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas in late August.
“Man-made climate change is contributing to increasingly strong hurricanes causing unprecedented damage,” he wrote. “The whole world should be scrambling to get on top of the climate change issue before it’s too late – for this generation, let alone the generations to come.”