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Kate Winslet proved this past weekend that she is just as much of a heroine in her real life as she is on screen. Yesterday, news broke that the actress and her family had escaped a fire that destroyed Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson's private-island home in the British Virgin Islands early Monday morning. Now, Branson is singing Winslet's praises for carrying his 90-year-old mother to safety.
"Around 20 people were in the house and they all managed to get out and they are all fine," Branson, 61, blogged on Monday. "We had a tropical storm with winds up to 90 mph. A big lightning storm came around 4 a.m. and hit the house. My son Sam and nephew Jack rushed to the house and helped get everyone out and many thanks to Kate Winslet for helping to carry my 90 year old mum out of the main house to safety - she was wondering when a Director was going to shout CUT!
Winslet, 35, her boyfriend Louis Dowler, and her two children, Mia, 10, and Joe, 7, were guests of Branson on Necker Island, the media mogul's private isle in the Caribbean.
The lightning storm that struck the house was part of tropical storm Irene, and Branson has posted pictures on his blog of the devastation wrought by the fire. The house burned to the ground and was still smoldering on Monday morning.
But Branson took an optimistic tone on his blog, despite the loss of his office and personal items. "It's very much the Dunkirk spirit here," he wrote, referring to the famous 1940 evacuation of all British and Allied forces from Dunkirk, France, during World War II (the massive evacuation most memorably captured in the film Atonement). The "Dunkirk Spirit" reflects the British tendency to pull together in times of stress and hardship, and focus on getting things repaired and back to normal.
Displaying his Dunkirk spirit, Branson writes: "We will 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. There's a lot of damage but we'll create something even more special out of the ruins."
Thankfully, no one was injured. And, thanks in part to Kate Winslet, what could have been a Branson family tragedy was averted. Branson seems well aware of that fact. "Currently just huddled up with family and friends in the continuing tropical storm," he wrote, "realising what really matters in life."