Necker Island, British Virgin Islands, Aug 23: A huge fire swept through the Caribbean home of British entrepreneur Richard Branson early on Monday, during a tropical storm.
Guests, including British actress Kate Winslet and her young children, escaped uninjured when fire gutted the home, on the Caribbean island of Necker.
The Virgin Group boss said about 20 people were staying in the eight-bedroom Great House on Necker, his private island in the British Virgin Islands.
Branson said he was staying in another property around 100 yards (metres) away with his wife Joan and son Sam, 25.
He said the fire broke out around 4 a.m. during a tropical storm with lightning and high winds, and Sam managed to help evacuate Winslet and other guests from the house.
Tropical Storm Irene walloped the Virgin islands and headed towards Puerto Rico late on Sunday and early Monday, strengthening into a hurricane on Monday with winds of about 130 kmph, according to the US National Hurricane Centre.
Branson said the guests, including his 90-year-old mother and his daughter Holly, 29, all managed to get out safely.
Winslet's spokeswoman, Sara Keene, confirmed the actress was unharmed.
Branson said the house was “completely destroyed” and the fire was not entirely out on Monday.
Virgin said the cause of the fire was still being investigated but lightning was the likely culprit.
Branson, 60, bought the island in the early 1980s and began building the Great House in 1982. AP