A trail of damage was left near Omagh in County Tyrone last night by what is described as a mini-tornado. Fierce winds battered buildings and cars during the brief but violent storm, which struck the outskirts of Omagh.

No one was injured during the freak weather, but some people were forced to make a dash for safety as gusts of wind reached more than 70 miles an hour.

There were reports of at least three cars being scooped up off the ground. Jason McMinn, who works at Kelly's Inn Bar in Garvaghy, said: "People were trying to rush to get inside, but when I was inside the shop it was very hard for the person working in the shop to keep the doors closed the wind was that strong.

"Cars in the forecourt were just getting blown against each other. There were more broken windows and part of the roof of our premises was blown off."

A Meteorological Office spokesman said that while funnel clouds which do not touch the ground are often mistaken for tornadoes this bore all the hallmarks of the real thing.