Sir Richard Branson calls for global aid plan for Irma victims

Image from Caribbean Buzz Helicopters

Image from Caribbean Buzz Helicopters

"This story is about the tens of thousands of people who have lost their homes and their livelihoods", The billionaire wrote. And officials worry that the number of dead could rise, as the full extent of the devastation becomes known.

In the past 30 years, there have been three and Branson says he has stayed on Necker Island each time.

Since the storm passed through the region, killing 24 people in Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, St. Barts and the U.S. Virgin Islands, there have been reports of rising crime due to the lack of infrastructure.

Residents have reported shortages of food, water and medicine, and many have complained of looting.

Becky Guile and her partner Dean
Becky Guile and her partner Dean

Across a band of the Caribbean islands, aid workers had been racing to get supplies to populations stripped of practically everything.

The dual-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda was especially hard hit. Irma was a category 5 hurricane when it hit the Virgin islands, then slowed before it made landfall in Florida.

"We took shelter from the strongest hurricane ever inside the concrete cellar on Necker and very, very fortunately it held firm", the billionaire wrote.

Soon after Irma killed 10 people on St. Martin, Category 4 Hurricane Jose threatened the area, halting evacuations for hours before heading out to sea and causing little additional damage.

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Damage to these resorts, along with heavy agricultural losses and reconstruction costs elsewhere in the country, will be a major economic strain on the country.

"We are still assessing the damage, but whole houses and trees have disappeared". The few images trickling in, however, suggest that the destruction in Cuba is not as cataclysmic as it is on islands elsewhere in the Caribbean. This may become a risky situation on top of the national disaster of Hurricane Irma in progress.

He told how he has travelled to Puerto Rico to "further mobilise aid efforts" but is planning to head to the British Virgin Islands to continue the recovery effort.

Interviews with a half-dozen people trapped on the island of Tortola, home to about 25,000 people, offer a snapshot of desperation. He urged people to take the incoming storm seriously.

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"That period of time is the time that we have to do whatever we need: water, food, gasoline", she said.

Branson said the British government had a "massive role to play" in rebuilding its territories, including the British Virgin Islands, an offshore financial center.

Still, on Monday, blogger Manes on U.S. Virgin Island St. John reported the situation was improving, saying police were patrolling the streets and that a Navy ship had arrived to help.

"The fear has always been, if we have a hit like what we have now, and the USA gets a serious hit, we will be completely forgotten", said Brigitte Berry, whose family is from St. Thomas.

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