Kenny Chesney shelters 17 people at his home during Irma, vows to help Virgin Islands

Country singer Kenny Chesney said Tuesday that he was heartbroken after seeing the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma.

The Category 5 storm tore through the Caribbean last week, killing at least 38 people and destroying buildings — including the singer’s home on the US Virgin Island of St. John.

“It’s hard to put it into words because I have got so many memories, so many friends there, so many fabrics and pieces of my life on that island,” Chesney told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360.” “To see that devastation and to see what it is today when I was just there last week, is really heart breaking.”

The country music superstar has been a resident of St. John for years. He was not on the island at the time of the storm but was able to shelter 17 people at his home. They survived and, with Chesney’s help, were able to evacuate the island.

Kate Hanna lost her home to Irma and rode out the storm in Chesney’s home.

“It literally saved our lives,” Hanna said. “My house is pretty much completely destroyed.”

Hanna recounted sheltering in Chesney’s home as Irma battered the Virgin Island. “We thought we were in a safe spot and then the window blew in,” she said. “So, we went into the laundry room, and we had 17 of us including 5 dogs and four kids and we — some of the boys grabbed a couple mattresses and we ended up in there for about five hours with mattresses and a washing machine and dryer and five guys taking turns rotating in and out, holding up the door so that it wouldn’t blow in, results of flooding. Luckily, there was a shop vac in there that we were able to dump the water out and kind of keep it not from completely flooding.”

Chesney says he’s determined to help evacuees and help the island rebuild. He created a foundation called Love for Love City to help US and British Virgin Islands victims of Hurricane Irma.

“The rebuilding is not going to be measured within a few days or a few weeks or a few months. It’s going to be measured in years, sadly enough.” Chesney added, “The heart and the spirit of that island is very resilient.”