Video: Actress Winslet flees for her life as Branson's island home burns down
Kate Winslet, the Oscar-winning actress, and her children were forced to flee a fire in the early hours of yesterday morning as it ripped through Richard Branson's Necker Island home, burning it to the ground.
Others who managed to escape the blaze included Branson's 90-year-old mother, Eve, and his daughter Holly (29).
The group was staying at the eight-bedroomed Great House, situated at the highest point of the Caribbean island, when it was struck by lightning during a tropical storm at 4am.
Branson, who bought Necker, in the British Virgin Islands, for around £200,000 in 1981 and began building the Great House the following year, was staying at a neighbouring property with his wife, Joan, and son, Sam (25).
The Virgin tycoon was typically effervescent when describing the loss of his private home, which also housed his office, vowing to rebuild as soon as possible.
He said: "It's very much the Dunkirk spirit here. We want to rebuild the house as soon as we can. We have a wonderful staff here and we want them to stay in work.
"We'll all stay here for the time being. There's a lot of damage and we won't be able to stick it back together again right away. It was a beautiful house."
Winslet (35), has a daughter Mia (10), from her first marriage to Jim Threapleton, and a son, Joe (7), by second husband, director Sam Mendes, from whom she is separated.
Her spokeswoman confirmed that she was "unharmed" in the fire.
The Great House was expected to be the venue for the marriage later this year of Holly Branson and shipbroker Freddie Andrews. Other celebrities who have stayed there include Robert De Niro, Steven Spielberg, Mel Gibson and Oprah Winfrey. (© Daily Telegraph, London)