Kenny Chesney Sheltered 17 People During Irma (Photos)

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Country singer Kenny Chesney sheltered 17 people at his beach house on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands while Hurricane Irma tore through the Caribbean, killing at least 38 people and destroying infrastructure.

Chesney told CNN he was not on the island at the time, but opened his home to more than a dozen people -- as well as five dogs -- who were unable to evacuate the area in time.

Kate Hanna was one of those people. She lost her home in the Category 5 storm and said she might have lost her life if not for Chesney's help.

"It literally saved our lives," Hanna told CNN. "My house is pretty much completely destroyed."

She and the others hunkered down in Chesney's laundry room as Irma cut a path of destruction across the island.

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"We thought we were in a safe spot and then the window blew in," Hanna recalled. "So we went into the laundry room, and we had 17 of us including five dogs and four kids ... 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," she added.

All 17 people escaped the storm unscathed, but the same cannot be said for Chesney's home.

"It's just simply gone," he told HLN, according to The Weather Channel. "That place and the people mean so much more to me than my house ... it's just devastation. It's really odd to see such a beautiful place look like a war zone."

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In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper he said: "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. To see that devastation and to see what it is today, when I was just there last week, is really heartbreaking."

Chesney said his focus now is to help reconstruct the island. To that end, he created a foundation called Love for Love City that will use money from donations to rebuild damaged homes and businesses.

"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," he said. "The heart and the spirit of that island is very resilient."

Sources: CNN, The Weather Channel / Featured Image: Craig ONeal/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Kenny Chesney/Twitter via The Weather Channel, Sgt. Priscilla Desormeaux/Army National Guard

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