Bognor battered by mini-tornado

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The Independent Online

Bognor Regis was struggling to regain its composure and roof tiles last night after a tornado ripped through the genteel resort at tea time.

Bognor Regis was struggling to regain its composure and roof tiles last night after a tornado ripped through the genteel resort at tea time.

Cars were smashed, roofs pulled apart and hundreds of houses damaged by the whirlwind, which left five in hospital. Families sheltered in a church hall amid flying slates, falling trees and gas leaks.

Two women, trapped in a caravan at the Riverside Caravan Park, were cut free by firefighters and taken to hospital with suspected chest and shoulder injuries.

A spokesman for the fire brigade said a mini-tornado had cut a path of about 1.5 miles across the town. "There was considerable structural damage to many properties. We are still trying to assess the damage, but it appears several hundred houses are affected. There have been a number of people injured." Twenty-five fire crews were called out to what was officially a 'major incident'.

Paul Wells, a witness to the phenomenon, said the tornado started near Tesco at the top of town then went down to the sea and out to the Channel. "You could hear the sheer force of the wind. I've never seen anything like it."

Nicky Budd, club manager at the Riverside Caravan Centre, said: "It was a humongous gust of wind, the noise was tremendous."

Tornados are rare in Britain. The West Midlands is England's twister alley, getting the most regular visits. But this year has seen giant water spouts caused by offshore whirlwinds, in Brighton and the Humber estuary. Two years ago a tornado at Selsey, Hampshire, broke Patrick Moore's telescope. But the Bognor whirlwind was much worse, said firefighters.

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