Felixstowe staggered by tornado sighting

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A tornado swept past Felixstowe yesterday, putting on a spectacular show but leaving the port town untouched.

The 600ft-high, 60ft-wide whirlwind appeared about two miles off the North Sea coast at about 6pm, making passing container ships look like "toy boats", according to a witness.

It remained on the horizon, lit bright white by the sun, for 20 minutes before finally appearing to break in the middle and disappear.

Howard Dawson, a computer consultant, photographed the phenomenon while visiting Felixstowe with his wife, Marion. "It was an amazing sight and you could see it was whipping up water about 100 feet into the air. It was something you would expect to see in the American mid-West rather than Suffolk. You realise how powerful nature is when you see something like this," he said.

A Coastguard spokesman at the Thames rescue centre in Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex, said they had no reports of any problems with shipping because of the tornado.

"They are certainly not a danger to large ships although they can be a potential risk to small sailing craft," he said.

A Meteorological Office spokesman said there were an average of 33 tornadoes reported in Britain every year.