A workman told last night how a "mini-tornado" struck a row of shops and houses in Woodbridge, causing hundreds of pounds of damage.

Strong winds struck properties in Warwick Avenue in the town at about 6.30pm, ripping off roof tiles and sending garden furniture flying through the air.

Eyewitnesses said the "tornado" lasted just a few seconds - it came as heavy storms travelled across the region last night.

Dave Keeble, 36, who lives in Warwick Avenue, was working at the living quarters of the Convenience Stores in the road when the freak weather hit.

"It looked a bit stormy and all of sudden it started raining heavily and there was a tremendous amount of wind," he said.

"I was near some sliding patio doors and I could barely walk towards them to close them - it was unbelievable.

"I've lived in some tropical places and I can only compare it to the noise of a cyclone. Within about 10 seconds it was all over.

"The damage was quite bad, there were six to eight houses with roof files blown off and the shops were all hit."

He said he saw a pub bench outside the nearby Warwick pub "go 20ft in the air" and added: "My greenhouse has blown away and one neighbour I spoke to said he saw a tree go almost flat to the ground and spring back up again when the wind stopped.

"I've rung some friends in Melton and they said they had nothing like it there - just big hailstones - so it must have been confined to a small area. It must have been a small tornado."

A spokeswoman for the Convenience Stores said they had suffered damage to their roof and staff at the New Peking Chinese take-away said they had also been hit by the strong winds.

Clean-up operations were under way last night, but emergency services said they had not been called to the incident.