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Richard Wiseman
"The caravans along the seafront have been blown to pieces"
 real 28k

Monday, 30 October, 2000, 17:59 GMT
Two injured in tornado
Damaged caravan at West Sands
The caravan park sustained about 500,000 of damage
A tornado has left a trail of destruction at a south coast caravan park.

Two people were injured when the mini twister swept through the West Sands Caravan Park in Selsey, West Sussex, at about 0710 GMT on Monday.

It is said lightning never strikes twice, but clearly the same is not true of tornados

Patrick Moore
About 150 caravans and a new leisure complex at the seafront side of the park were damaged.

Sussex Police spokesman Chris Oswick said the two people hurt had suffered cuts from broken glass.

But most of the holidaymakers had left the park at the weekend, and there were no serious injuries.

Richard Wiseman from Selsey Search and Rescue said: "The caravans along the seafront have been blown to pieces.

"All the glass in the front of them has been blown out and the roofs ripped off. Some have been totally destroyed."

'Freak occurrence'

John Bunn, managing director of the caravan park, said it had sustained about 500,000 of damage, mainly glass broken by flying debris and pebbles from the beach.

About 25 caravans on the 1,550-van site would have to be written off, he added.

Only about 500 people had been at the park at the time of the damage, as the season had been due to finish anyway on Tuesday.

"It was a freak weather occurrence. It could have been a lot worse. We had 7,000 people here on Saturday," Mr Bunn said.

"We warned people who were still here last night that there were strong winds coming, giving them the chance to leave if they wanted to."

Staff had spent Monday assessing the damage and making the park safe. The site had been closed a day early, and any remaining holidaymakers had left.

The mini tornado swept ashore just a few miles from the scene of Saturday's twister at Bognor Regis.

Frequent casualty

Selsey was last hit by a tornado in January 1998, and is also regularly affected by flooding from the sea.

Mr Bunn said the 1998 tornado had caused 3m of damage to the caravan park.

A spokesman for West Sussex Fire Brigade said that Selsey's tendency to suffer from severe weather was "just one of those things I'm afraid".

"I don't think you could ever get used to it," he said.

"We're two-and-a-half miles out to sea, and whatever comes down the channel I'm afraid's going to hit Selsey."


Astronomer Patrick Moore, who lives in Selsey and saw the previous tornado first hand, said he was lucky to have been out of the way.

"It must have been less than a quarter of a mile from where the previous whirlwind hit.

"I can't explain it. It is said that lightning never strikes twice, but clearly the same is not true of tornados. It makes me quite nervous to go outside."

Paul Knightley, a member of the Tornado and Storm Research Organisation, said it was "very probable" that the weather which hit the town on Monday had been a tornado.

"The conditions are right for one to occur - a cold front behind the deep depression causing a squall line of very heavy rain and hail," he said.

"However, it could just have been a burst of very bad weather. It will need to be investigated before we can tell for certain."

He added that if it turned out to have been a tornado, it could be one of several to have hit the country on Monday.

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30 Oct 00 | UK
Storm chaos at a glance
30 Oct 00 | UK
Storms batter Britain
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