As Hurricane Irma passed through the British Virgin Islands on its deadly course across the Caribbean. Necker Island, the privately owned island of Virgin founder Richard Branson took a direct hit. Branson and his staff rode out the storm in a concrete bunker/wine cellar. Although officially considered a Category 5 (the highest rating of a hurricane) Branson considers Irma to have been closer to a Category 7 with sustained winds of 185 miles per hour and gusts up to 215 miles per hour.
“For five hours it just felt like the bunker was — was going to crack,” Branson said. “And then, when we got into the eye of the storm suddenly this deathly hush and we tentatively opened the door and saw the utter devastation. I mean, everything laid bare.”
“We’ve had Bigger”
When asked by reporters if the severity of Irma and Harvey, (now including Jose and Maria, two Category 4 and two Category 5 hurricanes within an unprecedented one month period) caused him to rethink his views on climate change, Trump responded.
“Well, we’ve had bigger storms than this,” Trump replied. “And if you go back into the 1930s and the 1940s, and you take a look, we’ve had storms over the years that have been bigger than this. If you go back into the teens, you’ll see storms that were as big or bigger. So we did have two horrific storms, epic storms. But if you go back into the ’30s and ’40s, and you go back into the teens, you’ll see storms that were very similar and even bigger, OK?”
“Climate Change Is Real”
Speaking on CNN’s “New Day” after Irma, Branson said “Climate change is real.” “Ninety-nine percent of scientists know it’s real. The whole world knows it’s real except for maybe one person in the White House.”
“Scientists have said the storms are going to get more, and more, and more intense and more and more often,” Branson added. “I mean, we’ve had four storms within a month, all far greater than have ever, ever, ever happened in history. And I think that sadly this is the start of things to come.”
Branson was in New York to take part in a climate change conference and to use that platform to address the Trump administration’s plan to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. “I was at the Paris talks,” Branson said. “It felt like so much hope that the world was going to rally around to deal with this problem. And then, of course, what happened in America when people denied climate change and said that they wouldn’t rally around and help the rest of the world get on top of this problem. So, I just wanted to get here to talk about it.”
A paradise before Irma hit, Necker Island was home to hundreds of flamingos and over 60 lemurs. Thankfully most of the wildlife found shelter, however the island is now totally devoid of trees and Branson’s home is in ruins. Read: Wildlife in the path of Hurricane Irma; manatees, dolphins, lemurs and Hemingway’s cats
Meet the Ocean Elders
Richard Branson is an Ocean Elder along with our Blue Ocean allies Dr. Sylvia Earle and Jean-Michel Cousteau. See more about Ocean Elders here.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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