President Trump’s and Richard Branson’s Caribbean homes destroyed by Hurricane Irma
An 11-bedroom mansion owned by President Donald Trump on the Caribbean island of St. Martin is reported to have been torn apart by Hurricane Irma, while the luxury home of billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson in the British Virgin Islands was also destroyed.
The extent of the damage to Trump’s property is not yet fully known, but French officials said that the four most solid buildings on the island had “suffered serious damage,” making it unlikely Trump’s house had been spared.
A spokesperson for the Trump organization said precautions had been taken ahead of the storm without providing details of damage, according to media reports.
President Donald Trump has been trying to sell the property, a waterfront estate with a pool and fitness center, and lowered the listing price to $16.9 million from $28 million in August, according to the Washington Post.
In another blow to Trump, his seaside Mar-a-Lago resort was ordered to evacuate Friday morning, along with the barrier islands and low-lying areas of Palm Beach County, the Sun Sentinel newspaper confirmed. Trump has owned the private golf club since 1985. The president has vacationed and conducted business there numerous times early in his presidency, including hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other foreign leaders, sometimes raising controversy over security.
The evacuation is part of a broad attempt to get people to safety before Irma makes landfall in the state, which is now expected to happen on Saturday.
Branson, meanwhile, the owner of Virgin Airlines and Virgin Media, among other interests, on Friday blogged that he and his guests had emerged from the concrete wine cellar in which they rode out the storm unscathed
Branson had tweeted ahead of the storm that he would be hunkering down with guests in the wine cellar underneath his house on Necker Island.
The tweet drew derision for sounding tone deaf, given the dire conditions that many other people across the Caribbean would endure. The region has suffered terrible financial losses as the scale of the destruction becomes apparent. The islands depend heavily on tourism and reports and images of the devastation show that vital infrastructure has been badly damaged.
At least 10 people are reported to have died. The island of Barbuda, the first to be hit by Irma, has been all but wiped out. Puerto Rico says that nearly 900,000 people are without power, and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority gave a stunning warning Wednesday that parts of the island could be without electricity for up to six months.
“We took shelter from the strongest hurricane ever inside the concrete cellar on Necker and very, very fortunately it held firm,” the businessman wrote in a blog post. He explained he was dictating the blog using a satellite phone “that is just about working, but all other communications are down.”
Branson said Necker Island, which he purchased for 180,000 pounds in the late 1970s, has been completely devastated.
“We are still assessing the damage, but whole houses and trees have disappeared,” he said. “Outside of the bunker, bathroom and bedroom doors and windows have flown 40 feet away. “
Branson said Virgin was assisting in getting emergency supplies to the region and has donated to the British Red Cross to support relief efforts, urging others to do the same.
“Homes can be rebuilt but lives can’t,” he said on Thursday. “Nature warning us again of the impact of #climatechange. We must all do more to combat this.”
On Friday, he again urged those in the path of the storm to put safety first.
Ahead of the storm, Branson wrote that his guests were enjoying a sleepover in two rooms.
“I haven’t had a sleepover quite like it since I was a kid,” he wrote, describing the atmosphere on the island as “eerie but beautiful.”
The stock market fell Friday, after a choppy session Thursday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.17% and the S&P 500 SPX, -0.02% were last down about 0.2%. The Dow has lost 1.1% on the week, while the S&P is down 0.6%.
--- Market Watch
View of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on St. Martin.
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