A family is “lucky to be alive” after sheltering in a room as Hurricane Irma battered their family’s home in the British Virgin Islands.
Sasha Joyce’s cousin told how she and her father, her husband Brendan and their children were forced to shelter in her father’s house as the eye wall of the storm tore across the island of Tortola.
Sasha’s cousin Clare Parker described how the family had taken shelter in a back bedroom with the adults laying on top of the children, aged two and four, to protect them.
When they emerged, only the room they were in had survived, with all the others swept away.
Clare, 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.”
She said: “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.”
Mr Joyce, 44, from Glasgow, has lived on the island for more than 10 years where he works as a marina manager at Nanny Cay. Wife Sasha, 34, is from the island and children Keiran, four, and Aiden, two, were born there.
Mr Joyce’s sister Frances, from Glasgow, has spoken to him and said he was devastated by what had happened.
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.”
Hurricane Irma continues to wreak a path of devastation, with the death toll currently believed to stand at at least 20.
The British Virgin Islands are said to have borne the brunt of the damage and some areas are preparing for further damage as Hurricane Jose, which has been upgraded to category four, travels through the Atlantic.
Hurricane Irma is currently bearing down on the US mainland, tearing past Cuba, with increased strength.
Officials in Florida have warned “time is running out” to escape danger areas, calling on anyone remaining there to follow the mandatory evacuation orders.
The low-lying Florida Keys will be struck first when Irma arrives on Sunday and authorities are reportedly considering withdrawing emergency teams from the islands.
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.
Aid and expertise is being provided to Britain’s territories in the region in a £32 million government cash injection.
The Foreign Office has set up a hotline for people affected by the disaster and for people whose loved ones may be affected, on 020 7008 0000.