Robert De Niro has personally vowed to rebuild the island of Barbuda, which was devastated by Hurricane Irma last week.
De Niro and Crown Resorts casino mogul James Packer were in the process of beginning work on a $250 million casino resort on the island, a redevelopment of the K-Club, an abandoned resort that was once a favorite holiday haunt of Princess Diana.
Hurricane Irma, the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic, ravaged the eastern Caribbean last week, with the eye of the storm passing straight over Barbuda on Wednesday night before continuing its deadly course towards Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Cuba and Florida.
Its 185 MPH winds caused catastrophic damage to Barbuda, flattening 90 percent of buildings on the island and leaving 50 percent of its population homeless, according to the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne.
Browne said rebuilding the island would take “years.”
Barbuda is one half of the twin island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, situated around 40 miles north of its larger sister island. De Niro and Packer’s $250 million Paradise Found Nobu was to be the first casino on Barbuda. The nation’s four existing casinos are all situated on Antigua, which was spared the worst of Irma’s wrath.
De Niro, who was made a special economic envoy to Antigua and Barbuda by Browne at the same time permission was granted for the development to go ahead, is now not only intent on building his casino, but has also vowed to rebuild the entire island.
The star is understood to be a regular visitor to the islands and is a frequent stayer at the Jumby Bay Hotel in Antigua.
“We are beyond saddened to learn of the devastation in Barbuda caused from Hurricane Irma and look forward to working with the Paradise Found Nobu team, the Barbuda Council, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, and the entire Barbuda community to successfully rebuild what nature has taken away from us,” De Niro said in an official statement.
Opposition on Barbuda
Despite receiving the thumbs up from Browne, De Niro and Packer’s original proposal had faced some opposition on Barbuda. Residents have legal ownership of all land and the right to vote on all developments proposed for the island.
The project is not De Niro’s first collaboration with Packer. The Aussie mogul’s Hollywood movie company RatPac Entertainment produced a short film, directed by Martin Scorsese, and starring De Niro, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, to celebrate the opening of the Studio City integrated resort in Macau.
Packer has since sold his stake in both RatPac and Studio City but remains on board with the Barbuda project.