The British billionaire and Virgin Group founder headed to Puerto Rico after hunkering down in his Necker Island wine cellar, but announced in a Monday blog post that he will soon return to the British Virgin Islands to help rebuild after the storm devastated parts of the Caribbean.
“Much of the buildings and vegetation on Necker has been destroyed or badly damaged,” Branson, 67, wrote.
“This story is about the tens of thousands of people who have lost their homes and their livelihoods. 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.”
He added: “We have seen first-hand just how ferocious and unforgiving this storm was.”
Irma — one of the strongest storms ever recorded on the Atlantic — killed at least 24 people in the Caribbean islands, according to CNN. After smashing a string of small norther Caribbean islands, the then-Category 5 hurricane — with 180 mph winds, hit Puerto Rico, leaving 1 million residents without power.
Branson wrote earlier this week that he would stay on Necker Island and take shelter in his wine cellar with a group of Virgin employees.
Much of the buildings and vegetation on Necker has been destroyed or badly damaged. But British Virgin Islands Hurricane #Irma story is not about Necker – it is about the tens of thousands of people who have lost their homes and their livelihoods. @virginunite is coordinating aid to local BVI families & communities affected – please donate to help http://www.virgin.com/unite/bvi-community-support-appeal
He posted pictures of staff sleeping in makeshift beds and playing dice as the storm approached. The Virgin founder said he had experienced three hurricanes over 30 years on the island, and planned to wait out Irma since his home was reinforced to withstand high winds.
After the hurricane passed, Branson announced that his beloved island, which he has owned since 1978, had been badly damaged.
“I have never seen anything like this hurricane,”Branson wrote in a blog post using a satellite phone.
“Necker and the whole area have been completely and utterly devastated. We are still assessing the damage, but whole houses and trees have disappeared.”
He wrote in a tweet on Sunday that he was coordinating with families and communities in the British Virgin Islands affected by Irma.