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Friday, January 9, 1998 Published at 15:11 GMT


Town picks up the pieces after tornado
image: [ The tornado ripped through the area ]
The tornado ripped through the area

The West Sussex town of Selsey has been clearing up after a tornado damaged 1,000 buildings, causing damage estimated at £10m.

Roofs were ripped off, walls and fences blown over and trees uprooted as the tornado cut a swathe through the town on Wednesday night.

[ image: Experts say the damage could reach £10m]
Experts say the damage could reach £10m
Residents reported being blown through doorways and two workers who were using bulldozers to shore up sea defences were sucked from their cabs and only avoided being blown out to sea by clinging to their vehicles.

Locals described a spectacular thunderstorm and hailstones the size of golf balls moments before the tornado struck.

The BBC's correspondent Paul Greer describes the clean-up operation (0'31")
Remarkably only two people needed hospital treatment, one for minor fractures. Only two properties were still uninhabitable on Thursday night.

The Red Cross opened a centre at the town hall but most people who had to leave their homes went to stay with relatives.

Insurance assessors Prospero Direct are reported to be putting damage from the tornado at up to £10m.

Police are guarding against looters and cowboy builders expected to try to cash in on the situation.

One of Selsey's three schools damaged by the tornado is not expected to open for a number of days but the other two schools are reopening.

[ image: Selsey was also struck by a tornado in 1986]
Selsey was also struck by a tornado in 1986
The emergency services are on stand-by in case further winds caused more damage to weakened properties.

Resident Eric Paine said: "It felt as if Armageddon had come. There was a tremendous clap of thunder and lightning and terrific howling of wind. It was as if the whole place was coming down."

One of the first to feel the force of the tornado was Environment Agency worker Malcolm Wright, who was working on the beach helping to repair sea defences breached when seawater flooded into Selsey on Sunday.

[ image: Shoring up the sea defences]
Shoring up the sea defences
"I was sucked out of the driver's door and on to the beach. I just grabbed the handrail of the bulldozer and crouched down by the side of it and held on for grim life," he said.

The tornado moved inland, ripping away the bedroom wall in the home of Jeremy Wearn, sending it crashing into an adjoining garden.

"I was lying in bed when I was woken by what sounded like hail stones," he said. "I thought `the window is coming in' and heard the crash above my head and it came in over the top of me.

"When the crashing had stopped I looked out and could see next door. The bedroom wall had gone."

Another resident said the area "looked like Beirut" while there were reports of cars being lifted off the road.

Patrick Moore describes how the tornado affected his observatory (1' 30")
Resident Terrence Taylor added: "It took two of us to open the bedroom door because the pressure was so great. Everything was being sucked around."

The tornado wrecked the observatory belonging to celebrity astronomer Patrick Moore, who lives in the town.

Selsey was also hit by a tornado in 1986. Then it damaged 200 houses and cut a swathe 70 metres wide.

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