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SERVICES 
Saturday, 26 January, 2002, 17:11 GMT
Tornado rips into houses
Tree and flats
An uprooted tree crashed towards flats in Southampton
A tornado has damaged up to 100 homes in Cheshire as high winds swept across England.

Houses lost their roof tiles and branches were torn from trees as screaming winds and driving rain wreaked havoc in Alsager near Crewe at 0730 GMT on Saturday.

Meanwhile residents in Southampton narrowly escaped when a tree was brought crashing towards their flats.

And in Cornwall two police officers braved fast-flowing icy water to rescue a pregnant woman and a seven-month-old baby stranded inside a car.

Shocked eyewitnesses in Alsager say a "wall of water" carved a pathway 20 yards wide through a housing estate in the Close Lane area.

Mike Hursthouse, who was out walking at the time, said: "I looked to my right and saw what I can only describe as a wall of spray moving at an incredible speed, about 80 to 100mph, across a field.


I looked out of the window, and there was this tree in the house

Dennis Bundy, Southampton resident

"It hit some trees and then hit the first houses, making a track through the village."

Roads were closed in central Southampton after the 60ft-high poplar tree was toppled into the driveway of two-storey building with eight people inside.

All the residents escaped injury but the roof of the converted flats in Wilton Avenue was left open to the elements by the 55mph gales.

One resident Dennis Bundy said: "I was in the shower when there was this horrendous noise, it was quite stupendous.

"It was a crashing thundering bang, I looked out of the window, and there was this tree in the house."

A van was also damaged when the tree, with a trunk diameter of around three feet and weighing an estimated four tons, was blown down.

The road was closed, and Southampton city council called tree surgeons to the scene of the incident.

Police were called to rescue a pregnant woman and a baby who were stuck in a Toyota vehicle as the River Ottery burst its banks at North Petherwin, Cornwall.

Her husband had managed to scramble out as water rose to four feet and threatened to engulf the car.

He used a mobile phone to summon help and officers arrived to wade to the vehicle and carry the woman and her baby to safety.

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said: "Winds and rain has caused a lot of problems across the region."

Other parts of England are also being affected by the high winds and more gusts are forecast to spread from the South West on Sunday.

The Environment Agency has issued flood warnings for people in parts of the Midlands and the South West.

Coast guards are warning of rough seas and poor visibility.

See also:

25 Jan 02 | Scotland
Scotland hit by snow and slush
21 Jan 02 | England
Sea sighting as crewman lost
08 Jan 02 | Business
Goldilocks weather cheers baker
28 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
Power restored after gale force winds
09 Jan 01 | Scotland
Anger over 'cold' weather deaths
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