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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 November 2005, 16:29 GMT
Calm returning to 'tornado' street
By Arryn Moy
BBC News, Birmingham

Ladypool Road scaffolding - November 2005
The street is still awash with scaffolding and skips

Lined with shops and restaurants, Birmingham's Ladypool Road seemed calm in the autumn mist.

Yet, even on the back of a property boom, the number of buildings clad with scaffolding or being repaired gives some clue to the amazing turn of events which once transformed this quiet, suburban street.

Nearly four months ago, a summer downpour was whipped into a tornado which ripped roofs from homes and showered tiles and debris over a wide area.

The 130mph winds yanked trees from the soil and spread panic among shoppers left to bear the brunt of the weather's spite.

Its intensity led to hundreds of homes being damaged and scores of people left without shelter.

'Boost the image'

And its affects are still being felt - even though the area is now almost back to normal.

In fact, so extraordinary was the storm that the Duke of Edinburgh was in Birmingham's Sparkbrook area on Tuesday to check on efforts to repair the damage.

Restaurant owner Yaqoub Ali said Prince Philip's visit endorsed the fact the area is back in business.

"We were very pleased at his visit. It will definitely boost the image of the balti triangle," he said.

"We are back in business, we were shut for a number of weeks but we are back in business again."

Pravin Gohill
Mr Gohill said more could have been made of a royal visit

Another of the guests, businessman Rafiq Waheed said the prince had a good sense of humour.

"He asked us whether our property was damaged and I told him 'yes, our roof was damaged'," he said.

"He said 'Are you open yet?' and I said 'No we're having a refurb' and as a joking remark he said 'Are you living off the insurance?' and he laughed."

But for some residents, his visit went unnoticed.

Pravin Gohill, 55, has run the George pub on Ladypool Road since 1997. During the tornado, a chimney crashed through the roof of the 100-year-old pub while it was open, although no-one was hurt.

It smashed joists even down into the cellar. About 40% of the roof was lost and the pub was shut for six weeks.

Mr Gohill said: "There certainly was a lack of communication after the tornado. The control room was telling people, and the police, all of Ladypool was closed and it was not.

"We could have done with more help from the city council. Their emphasis was for the residential areas - and that was understandable. But I don't think they did a lot for the businesses at the time."

28 JULY Tornado
500 people have still not returned home
130 homes still have no roof
Some will not be home before next summer
20 people were injured - three seriously
Winds were estimated to reach 130mph
Traffic was banned along Ladypool Road for several weeks after the tornado

Mr Gohill, known as Pete to some customers, left Kenya and worked in a management role at Central Trains for 27 years, before moving into the pub industry.

Repairs were put at about 70,000 and there were initial fears the pub may not open again.

Mr Gohill said: "I bet the duke won't be coming in here for a drink. It is no good people coming along in a limousine. He should be out there seeing the people.

"We could have arranged for Indian, Pakistani and St George's flags all along Ladypool Road, and get the kids out from the schools. It would have looked good.

"But I think you will find about 70% or 80% of people would not know there was a royal visit today. No-one told us.

"I was lucky, I was insured. There were a lot of people knocking on the council's doors asking for money to mend their homes. Of course, I am sympathetic, but I don't think taxpayers' money should given to people with no insurance."

But other people interviewed by BBC News said the tornado was "old news" and that people had moved on.

George pub - July 2005
How the George pub looked after a chimney brought the roof down

More people were interested in talking about the state of the traffic, and the lack of parking enforcement in the area leading to frequent long traffic queues.

Mohammed Khan, 38, a private hire driver of St Paul's Road, said: "Luckily, I was not hit, but I know two people who were.

"It was terrible, but one of them is home and the other one should be within weeks. It has been awful for them but we have rallied round to help.

"You just don't think it will be happen round here. I did not know the duke was coming, but I am not sure what he can do.

"You would have thought they would have swept the streets knowing he was coming, but it seems as if no-one cares about us now we are not in the news any more."

Duke to visit city's tornado area
21 Nov 05 |  West Midlands
Second tornado strikes Birmingham
12 Oct 05 |  West Midlands
Tornado children return to school
12 Sep 05 |  West Midlands
Tornado homes could be bulldozed
29 Jul 05 |  West Midlands
Tornado is 'worst for 25 years'
29 Jul 05 |  West Midlands
Tornado hits Birmingham
29 Jul 05 |  West Midlands

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