Twenty are injured as tornado hits Birmingham

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At least 20 people were taken to hospital, three with serious injuries, when a tornado ripped through Birmingham. Trees were uprooted and roofs and chimneys torn from buildings as the tornado swept across the city yesterday. Witnesses said a section of the city, centred on Sparkbrook, was left resembling a war zone with glass, masonry, tyres and furniture littering the streets.

A fire service spokes-woman said: "We can confirm that at least 20 people have been injured in the tornado - three seriously - including three boys and three girls who have been treated by fire service personnel and ambulance crews for various injuries and have been taken to hospital."

The wind picked up a car park attendant's wooden hut and blew it across the street. Unconfirmed reports suggest the attendant was one of those taken to hospital.

Other injured people were said to include a woman whose leg and arms were sliced open by a flying street sign.

The fire service declared the storm a major incident, and West Midlands Police said an emergency triage centre had been set up in the Moseley area of the city.

Dacia Kirby, a pensioner from King's Heath, said: "There was a roaring noise and everything went dark. Out of nowhere, a violent wind arose. The fir tree in my garden was bending both ways, the coping on my neighbour's roof came off and broke through the window. I have never, ever seen a wind like that before."

Another eyewitness, Brian Cassidy, 30, saw the rain slanting sideways on Ladypool Road. He jumped into a friend's car and watched as the tornado passed over. He said: "It hit a roof and just lifted it off. I could see grown men on a garage forecourt crying, holding their ears."

After the freak weather passed, Mr Cassidy ran from the car to help a woman, her daughter and niece who were inside a house with no roof. He broke the door down and found them crying inside.

The Meteorological Office said tornadoes were especially rare in built-up areas. "The tall buildings would normally stop their formation," a spokesperson said.

"We would estimate this is a tornado with a rating of T3-T4. That would mean it had wind speeds of between 93-114 mph for T3 and 114-130 for T4. We have an average of 33 reports of tornadoes in the UK each year, but there has not been one of this strength in many years."

A second tornado struck in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire late yesterday afternoon. Police said the high winds caused structural damage in the Paston area of the city, but they were not aware of any injuries.

The Meteorological Office said heavy but localised storms were expected for the next few days.

What a difference 10 days makes, but not according to the Met Office

Weir Wood reservoir near East Grinstead was nearly dry earlier this month amid fears that the toll of climate change was already visible. The baked, cracked West Sussex clay showed how critically low the water supply had become after the dry winter and spring.

From November to June, the counties of Surrey and Sussex had only 58 per cent of the average rainfall - the driest such period since 1975-76 and the third driest in nearly a century.

By yesterday, the reservoir had been replenished. However, the Met Office said concerns over reserves remained. While July looked likely to meet its rainfall average, the overall shortfall continued.

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