Lifestyle & Belief

Kate Winslet escapes fire at Richard Branson's island getaway

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Sir Richard Branson poses to celebrate Virgin Money's Birthday in Australia on July 7, 2011 in Sydney, Australia. Twenty people escaped unhurt from a fire at Branson's luxury home in the Caribbean in the early hours of August 22, 2011. Actress Kate Winslet was among those staying on Branson's island at the time.

Credit:

Maree Williams

Twenty people escaped unharmed from a fire that destroyed Sir Richard Branson's luxury vacation home on a private Caribbean island.

Actress Kate Winslet and children were among Branson's guests on Necker Island, in the British Virgin Islands, when lightning from a tropical storm hit the house and started a fire, the BBC reports.

Branson, who was staying at a nearby property with his wife and son, said the fire started early Monday and "completely destroyed" the building known as the Great House. The fire was not yet completely out, the British billionaire added.

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His 90-year-old mother, Eve, and 29-year-old daughter, Holly, were staying at the Great House when the fire broke out.

The Virgin Group boss said Winslet had helped to carry his elderly mother to safety.

"We had a really bad tropical storm with winds up to 90 mph," Branson said. "A big lightning storm came around 04:00 and hit the house."

Branson said his office was based in the house, and he has lost thousands of photographs and notebooks, "but all family and friends are well — which in the end is all that really matters."

Branson bought Necker Island in the early 1980s, and built the eight-bedroom Great House in 1982.