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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Freak Tornado in London injures six


Six injured as freak mini-tornado hits London street

Thu Dec 7, 11:37 AM ET
Six people were injured when a freak tornado hit a street in northwest London, ripping roofs off houses, uprooting trees and sending debris flying, witnesses and officials have said.
About 100 houses were damaged and several hundred people forced to leave their homes in the Kensal Rise district of the capital by the 30-second twister, a police spokesman said Thursday.
At least one house had its side entirely peeled off and the debris was scattered into the street, according to television pictures.
"It was really, really incredible. All of a sudden I saw a swirl starting to form and then, it was amazing, but it then touched land," local resident Colin Brewer told BBC television.
The tornado, which he estimated was 200 feet (65 metres) high, was just like a film, he said.
"The minute it touched land, instantly rocks, bricks, dustbins, everything just (went) flying in the air, just like the Wizard of Oz," he said, describing "clumps of all sorts of things flying into the air."
Some 20 fire trucks and 50 firefighters rushed to the scene, while a local school was evacuated, said a fire service spokesman, adding that some people were being looked after in a local church hall.
The area, strewn with blown-over trees -- some of them more than a century old, according to locals -- as well as damaged cars and other debris, was cordoned off for some time as the clean-up begain.
Eyewitness James Miles told Sky News television that the sky went dark and there was thunder and lightning immediately before the tornado struck.
"Everything just goes round and round for about 20 seconds until it skips over you and then all of a sudden it's silent and then the debris is all over the place," he said.
Paramedics also rushed to the scene, and one man was taken to hospital with a head injury while five others were treated at the scene for minor injuries and shock, the capital's ambulance service said.
Another eyewitness, Sally Johnson, said she thought she was going to die. "All the cars and the windows, everything (was) smashed in," she told Sky. "There's debris everywhere, you can hardly walk."
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said it was too early to estimate the cost of damage, but a spokesman recalled that a similar freak tornado which hit Birmingham last year caused tens of millions of pounds' worth of damage.
ABI spokeswoman Kelly Ostler said most people would be covered for tornado damage under normal household insurance policies.
"They just want to make sure people are dealt with quickly, and it's not going to be any more stressful for people who are already quite distressed by this incident," she said.
Brewer said he had been watching the lightning with his small daughter when the tornado hit.
"I went to the window to watch the lightning, you know lots of fun," he said.
"It went from exciting to terrifying."
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