Mini tornado rips through circus

By David LennardA CIRCUS is hoping to reopen today after a mini tornado tore through its big top, leaving behind a 30ft rip in the roof.Performers from Circus Ricardo, which has set up on Southwold Common, were for the past two weeks and performers were rehearsing at about 4.

By David Lennard

A CIRCUS is hoping to reopen today after a mini tornado tore through its big top, leaving behind a 30ft rip in the roof.

Performers from Circus Ricardo, which has set up on Southwold Common, were rehearsing at about 4.30pm on Monday when disaster struck.

During a thunderstorm and torrential downpour it is believed the circus tent was struck by what has been described as a mini tornado.

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Circus juggler, Ramon Cordell, said: “I saw clouds swirling around very fast and then I saw a whirlwind appearing.”

Rupert Appleyard, ringmaster of Circus Ricardo, described the terrifying moment when the big top was struck.

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“It seemed that the thunderstorm was centred here in Southwold and the kingpin of the big top was struck by lightning, putting all our electrics out,” he said.

“It was while we were trying to sort things out when the big top was hit by a very powerful tornado-like wind that tore a 30ft rip in the roof.”

The gaping hole in the roof meant that rainwater poured inside, causing damage to costumes and other equipment.

“Of more concern is the fact that a collection of 19th Century puppets were also damaged, but we are hoping they will dry out okay,” said Mr Appleyard.

Fortunately, there were no performances planned for on Monday when the tornado struck.

“If something like this has to happen, at least it did when there were no members of the public inside the big top,” said Mr Appleyard.

However, members of the public who were in the area at the time came to help when the big top was ripped open.

“There was so much confusion at the time that I never got a chance to thank everyone who helped us. I would like to put on record how grateful we are for all the assistance we received,” said Mr Appleyard.

Repairing the big top is a specialist operation and the circus performers were waiting yesterday for experts to arrive and assess the damage.

The circus is hoping to open again today with shows at 3pm and 7pm.

“We all want to open again as quickly as possible, but that will depend on when the big top is repaired,” said Mr Appleyard.

The wet weather also caused problems for people staying at the Southwold Harbour Camping and Caravan site.

Monday evening's torrential downpour was the final straw for many hardy campers on the Waveney District Council-run site.

Some families had no choice but to pack up and return home after part of the site became waterlogged.

John and Genevieve Glenn, from Croydon, have been staying at the site with their eight-year-old grandson, Samuel.

“Last night we had to bail out the water as it was coming in the tent so fast. We filled our washing-up bowl with water 15 times to try to stay dry inside the tent,” said Mrs Glenn.

Her husband added: “We will give it another go, but one more episode like that and we will be forced to pack up and return home.

“The problem is that the ground is so waterlogged that it cannot soak up any fresh rainfall, so the water stays on the surface.”

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