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Last Updated: Friday, 7 December 2007, 06:02 GMT
Tornado community spirit thrives
By Jane Mower
BBC News, London


One year on and the tell-tale signs that a tornado wreaked havoc in a quiet corner of north-west London are clearly visible.

Scaffolding poles and building waste adorn the streets of Kensal Rise where houses have shiny roof tiles, new brick work and freshly landscaped gardens.

But the residents agree that while their homes, and lives, were ripped apart a spirit of community has emerged from the ruins.

Jane Lee, 50, said: "It was an anonymous inner city area where no-one really spoke to each other but everybody does now."

Her neighbour Fiona Mulaisho, whose home all but collapsed in the storm, said: "Everybody round here was very helpful and there was a real community spirit.

She just said 'The house has fallen down'
Jane Lee

"Now you can't go down to the end of the road without being stopped five or six times."

The powerful thunderstorm left behind a trail of destruction when it struck at about 1100 GMT on 7 December 2006.

Ms Lee's daughter, Juman, was alone in their three-storey terraced house when the storm broke.

The 24-year-old could only stand and watch as the tornado ripped the house apart, bringing windows, roofs and walls crashing down around her.

Emotional time

Recalling the moment her daughter called to break the news Mrs Lee said: "She just said 'The house has fallen down'.

"I told her not to be ridiculous but I could tell how distressed she was so I drove straight home."

Juman, who was stood outside waiting for her mother, had had a lucky escape as a huge window frame had fallen onto her bed.

View of street from inside house
The side of Fiona Mulaisho's house collapsed onto a car

Mrs Lee said: "For the next few days she stayed with a friend and wouldn't go upstairs but she is fine now."

The family stayed in a local hotel before moving into a small flat in Chelsea, west London, where they lived for the next six months.

"Emotionally it was a very difficult time as we had lost our home and I had to return every day and see it in ruins with complete strangers walking through," said Mrs Lee.

"It was very distressing, if you lose your home you lose yourself.

"I felt it wasn't our home. You don't have any of your stuff, we had one chair from our house, the cooker didn't work, it was like camping."

Practical approach

On 24 June, and after more than 70,000 had been spent on repairs and renovations, they moved back in.

Ms Mulaisho was also at work when she was told the devastating news.

"I came back to find the house had fallen down," she said.

"We had just had some building work done and the redecorating had been finished just two days earlier."

You want to be near your things and to get your life back
Fiona Mulaisho

Within the hour pictures of her house, which had partially collapsed onto a car, were being flashed across media outlets.

Despite the high drama of the moment she said she remained calm and practical.

"I am a very practical person so once we had established that no-one had died we just got on with the situation, you just have to get things into perspective," she explained

Three months later the house had been rebuilt and much to Ms Mulaisho's relief, she was able to move back in.

"You want to be near your things and to get your life back," she said.

"Everyone around here talks to each other now but we don't talk about the tornado anymore, we've moved on."

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