Billionaire businessman Richard Branson has made contact with the outside world after deciding to hunker down and stay on his private island while Hurricane Irma raged through the British Virgin Islands.
Branson had previously been criticized by some on social media for his seemingly flippant attitude about the storm that came across in Instagram and Twitter posts. He posted images of himself playing games and drinking wine, referred to his time on the island as a “sleepover” and said he and his team would weather the storm in his concrete wine cellar.
However, as Irma traveled over Necker Island, which Branson owns, the social media posts stopped for several hours. On Thursday, he made his first public comments since the storm in a blog post on the website of Virgin, the company he owns.
Speaking over satellite phone, as all other methods of communication are down, Branson said he had “never seen anything like this hurricane. Necker and the whole area have been completely and utterly devastated. 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.”
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Branson also urged those still in the path of the storm “to put safety first and prepare as strongly as possible.”
Branson’s son, Sam, also posted on Instagram on Thursday, saying that “all humans” on the island are safe after the storm. However, TMZ reports that some of the exotic wildlife on the island are unaccounted for. Neither Branson has publicly commented about the animals.
According to the Independent, not everyone in the British Virgin Islands escaped unharmed like Branson. There have been four deaths related to Irma, as well as at least 16 others in the Caribbean.
Branson is likely not the only famous wealthy person to have a home battered by Irma: President Donald Trump’s estate is on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, which had 95 percent of the island destroyed by the storm, according to Fortune.