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Tornado wreaks havoc in English resort

LONDON, England -- Several people have been injured after a tornado struck the southern coast of England in what the emergency services have called a "major incident."

The freak wind hit the seaside town of Bognor Regis on Saturday evening where it ripped the roofs off hundreds of houses and overturned cars and caravans.

A West Sussex Police spokesman told CNN.com that at least four people have been injured.

Two women were taken to hospital after they were crushed in a caravan after another caravan blew on top of it.

One of the women, in her fifties had chest injuries, the other, in her sixties suffered shoulder and leg injuries.

A man and a women were also cut in the face from flying glass blown out of a supermarket window.

"The calls started coming in one after the other from people describing either a tornado or a hurricane," Sussex police press officer Kate Davies told CNN.com.

"Several hundred properties have been damaged. We've got roofs off houses, half a warehouse roof removed, cars and caravans overturned plus a couple of gas leaks caused by the winds," she said.

Terrified residents said the whirlwind cut a swathe of destruction through quiet streets in Bognor.

Eyewitness Paul Wells said it snapped trees in two, lifted sheds off the ground and smashed windows when it hit shortly before 5.45pm.

"The tornado caused absolute havoc here," he said.

"It trailed through the town causing sheer devastation. It started near Tesco at the top of town then headed down towards the seafront and finally it went out towards the sea."

Emergency services said the tornado strike had been declared a major incident and was "much, much worse" than the tornado that hit nearby Selsey in January 1998.

Initial reports suggested a caravan at the Riverside Caravan Park was lifted into the air and dropped on to another parked nearby.

Nicci Budd, manager of the park, said: "It was very quick, very sudden. I live on site and I was in my caravan drying my hair when there was a sudden surge of electricity and a bang at the front of the caravan.

"One of the caravans has either toppled or been lifted up, but I don't know how many have been damaged in total. The tornado cut a diagonal line across our site."

Sussex ambulance service say they have taken the casualties to St Richard's Hospital in nearby Chichester.

The spokesman said: "A mini tornado has cut a path of about 1.5 miles across the built-up area, mainly the Aldwick part of the town. There was considerable structural damage to many properties.

"We are still trying to assess the damage, but it appears several hundred houses are affected. There have been a number of people injured.

"If you compare this to the tornado at Selsey in Hampshire a couple of years ago, it is much, much worse."

The fire service spokesman said damage included roofs being ripped off, trees damaging homes and a number of cars being smashed up.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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