A woman has told how her cousin and family are “lucky to be alive” after they survived being in the eye wall of Hurricane Irma.
Sasha Joyce and her father, her husband Brendan and their children sheltered in her father’s house as the storm tore across the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.
The adults lay on top of the children, aged two and four, to protect them as the winds battered the house.
When they emerged, the other rooms had been swept away, with only the room they had sheltered in surviving.
Sasha’s cousin Clare Parker, who lives in London, said: “My aunt and uncle have lived in the British Virgin Islands for nearly 50 years and have survived many many hurricanes, but they realised that this was a hugely significant one and took all the precautions, they shuttered up and took shelter in a back bedroom that’s the most secure.
“They were all in that room with the adults lying on top of the small children.
“When they came out, the eye wall of the tornado had ripped the concrete house apart.
“They walked out of there alive, which is miraculous and we are so grateful for. They are feeling lucky to be alive.”
She said more aid is vital to help the people on the islands, with food and generators among the things needed.
Irma has torn a destructive trail through several British territories, with the British Virgin Islands said to have born the brunt of the damage.
The death toll from Irma has risen to 20, with four more people believed to have died on the British Virgin Islands, it is reported.
Mr Joyce, 44, from Glasgow, has lived on the island for more than 10 years and works as a marina manager at Nanny Cay.
His wife Sasha, 34, is from the island and his children Keiran, four, and Aiden, two, were born there.
His sister Frances Joyce, from Glasgow, has spoken to him and said he is devastated by what has happened and worried for the future.
She said: “The first time he phoned, he phoned me in tears and said ‘we’re alive, there’s nothing else’.
“He is really worried about food and shelter, and worried about how it’s going to pan out.
“They have two little boys as well, so they are trying to keep them calm.
“Back in Scotland we’re devastated as a family, we feel so helpless as we can’t do anything for them, they’re away over there. It’s amazing that they are alive.”
Richard Branson has set up a donation page to help those affected at https://www.virgin.com/unite/bvi-community-support-appeal.
Prime Minister Theresa May has sought to give assurances to the British territories that the Government’s support would include a focus on long-term rebuilding.
Some already-ravaged areas are preparing for further possible damage as Hurricane Jose, which has been upgraded to category four, travels through the Atlantic.