British billionaire Richard Branson has called for a “Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan”’ for Caribbean communities devastated by Hurricane Irma.
The Virgin Atlantic founder posted pictures of the damage done to his retreat in the British Virgin Islands as the category 5 hurricane smashed into it.
The hurricane uprooted trees and destroyed buildings on Necker Island as Branson sheltered in a wine cellar.
The British entrepreneur later posted a blog from Puerto Rico, where he was trying to further mobilise aid efforts and rebuilding plans for the British Virgin Islands and the Caribbean before heading back to help on the ground.
“This story is about the tens of thousands of people who have lost their homes and their livelihoods,’’ he said in the blog.
“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. We have seen first-hand just how ferocious and unforgiving this storm was.”
Branson said there were worrying reports of unrest and urged everybody to “ stay safe, remain calm and support each other’’.
He praised the efforts of armed forces already on the scene and noted a catastrophic event such as Irma would strain any community.
“That said, I’ve already seen some wonderful acts of human kindness over the last few days,’’ he said. “ Everyone is coming together to help and support one another.
“However, the BVI needs an enormous amount of help to recover from the widespread devastation.
“Our thoughts are with all the people and regions hit by Hurricane Irma, and all those in the US communities currently facing the storm.
“What makes the Virgin Islands unique is its isolated location – every island has been devastated, so there is no support to come from nearby.
“We must get more help to the islands to rebuild homes and infrastructure and restore power, clean water and food supplies.”
Branson’s reference to the Marshall Plan refers to the massive effort put in by the United States to rebuild Western Europe after World War II.
“The UK government will have a massive role to play in the recovery of its territories affected by Irma — both through short-term aid and long-term infrastructure spending.
“The region needs a “Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan” for the BVI and other territories that will aid in recovery, sustainable reconstruction and long-term revitalisation of the local economy.
“This will have to include building resilience against what is likely to be a higher intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, as the effects of climate change continue to grow.”
The hurricane was downgraded to a still dangerous category 2 storm after it ,made landfall on Florida’s west coast after bettering the south of the state, causing flooding, damage and leaving millions without power.
It is heading north, prompting Delta Air Lines to issue warnings to passengers using its Atlanta megahub .