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Kate Winslet, kids flee fire on Richard Branson's private island

August 22, 2011 | 10:40 am

Kate Winslet escapes a fire on Richard Branson's private island

Kate Winslet and her children were among those who escaped safely from an overnight fire that destroyed the Great House on billionaire Richard Branson's private island in the British Virgin Islands.

Twenty people, including the Oscar-winning actress, Branson's mother, Eve, and his daughter, Holly, were staying in the eight-bedroom Great House. The Virgin honcho, who lost an office and thousands of pictures in the ruined building on Necker Island, was staying nearby with his wife and 25-year-old son Sam.

"We had a really bad tropical storm with winds up to 90 miles per hour. A big lightning storm came around 4 a.m. and hit the house," Branson said Monday in a statement.

"My son Sam rushed to the house and helped get everyone out."

Winslet was vacationing with her 10-year-old daughter, Mia, her 7-year-old son, Joe, and her on-and-off boyfriend, British model Louis Dowler. Winslet and husband Sam Mendes split up last year.

Necker Island sounding familiar? That's where Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo got married -- and filmed their TLC wedding special -- in July. It was also expected to be the site of Holly Branson's wedding to fiance Fred Andrews later this year.

"We want to rebuild the house as soon as we can," papa Branson said. "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."

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-- Christie D'Zurilla
Twitter.com/dzurillaville

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: Kate Winslet; Richard Branson. Credits: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times; Torsten Blackwood / AFP/Getty Images

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