UK

Twenty people escape fire at Branson's holiday home

  • 22 August 2011
  • From the section UK

Twenty people have escaped unhurt from a fire that broke out at Sir Richard Branson's luxury home in the Caribbean.

British actress Kate Winslet was among those staying on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands when a tropical storm broke out and lightning hit the house, said Sir Richard.

The Virgin Group boss, who was staying at a nearby property, said the fire had "completely destroyed" the building.

The blaze is not yet completely out, said Sir Richard.

"Around 20 people were in the house and they all managed to get out and they are all fine," he added.

Sir Richard's 90-year-old mother Eve and his 29-year-old daughter Holly were also staying at the property, named the Great House, when the blaze broke out in the early hours of Monday.

He said Winslet had helped to carry his mother to safety.

"We had a really bad tropical storm with winds up to 90mph [145km/h]," said Sir Richard, who was staying at a nearby property with his wife Joan and son Sam, 25, at the time.

Image caption Sir Richard thanked Kate Winslet for helping to rescue his mother

"A big lightning storm came around 04:00 and hit the house.

"My son Sam and nephew Jack rushed to the house and helped get everyone out, and many thanks to Kate Winslet for helping to carry my 90-year-old mum out of the main house to safety.

"The main house is destroyed and the fire is not yet completely out.

"My office was based in the house and I have lost thousands of photographs and my note books which is very sad. But all family and friends are well - which in the end is all that really matters."

Winslet, 35, who won an Oscar for her role in the 2008 movie The Reader, was staying at the house with her daughter Mia, 10, and her son Joe, seven.

Sir Richard, 60, bought Necker Island in the early 1980s and began building the eight-bedroom Great House in 1982.

Image caption Each bedroom at the Great House has its own balcony, four-poster bed and en-suite bathroom

It was expected to be the venue for the marriage of Holly and shipbroker Freddie Andrews later this year and is used by Branson and his friends, as well as being hired out.

"It's very much the Dunkirk Spirit here," said Sir Richard.

"We will rebuild the house as soon as we can.

"There's a lot of damage but we'll create something even more special out of the ruins."

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