With her child's cot covered in glass and the windows boarded up, Frances Delaney began the painstaking task of clearing the debris yesterday after being allowed to return to her tornado-wrecked home in Birmingham.

The mother-of-four, whose home in Birchwood Road, Moseley, was hit by the storm last Thursday, spent hours removing the shards of glass and tree branches that littered the floors of her house.

Part of the roof was ripped off and dents in the front door revealed where tiles and trees had struck.

The family had been on holiday in Exmoor when the tornado struck, but her brother-in-law Mark Anderson had been in the house that day.

The artist had watched the storm erupt but fled to the downstairs cupboard when he saw the roofs of houses opposite being ripped up by the tornado.

He said: "It went dark and very windy. The wind picked up a few leaves and then quite big branches. All the roofs lifted off and bits of rubble were flying around in the air. I closed the door and got under the stairs because I thought the house might come down. As I closed the door of the cupboard the windows smashed."

Mrs Delaney, who is trying to sell her home, said: "We were in Exmoor and got a phone call, we just couldn't believe it.

"Everything is just covered in glass and bits of tree. I have got four children and we are trying to move to somewhere bigger."

Despite the devastation, the family have managed to retain a sense of spirit, marking the For Sale sign with the words "slightly damaged".

"My husband decided to do that, you have to keep spirits up," she added.

Shopkeeper Zaman Khan, of the Ladypool Road Traders' Association, was helping coordinate the clean up operation yesterday.

As builders moved in with cherry pickers to remove unsafe chimney stacks, dozens of cars remained where they fell on the day of the tornado. None had escaped unscathed.

Piles of trees and bricks had been swept aside awaiting removal, and while dozens of shops were closed due to the damage, a sense of normality at Punjab Paradise restaurant prevailed with the owners managing to open for a wedding party.

"It is like a war zone, it is worse than if a bomb had hit us. The good thing about it is that the community has rallied together.

"It is going to take months to clear this up and thousands of properties are affected," Mr Khan said.

He decided not to reopen the shop, Frontier Stores, and instead help with the clean-up efforts.

At a hastily erected information point on Ladypool Road and Highgate Road, Councillor Martin Mullaney ( Lib Dem Moseley) had arrived to offer his help.

A steady stream of residents turned up to record their various tales of horror and devastation - many without insurance to cover the damage.

"It is different to Boscastle in that this is a disaster in an area of high poverty. I think it could happen again - this is global warming," he said.

"As a councillor I was waiting for information to tell me what to do, but I didn't get any so I just came down to help.

"I think this could happen again and we have to be prepared. I think the council has done a great job but communications could have been better." Council leader Mike Whitby said: "I have committed the full resources of the city council to dealing with this major natural disaster.

"The extent of this natural disaster is unprecedented in a heavily populated urban area, and we need to work together to ensure that we minimise the trauma and disruption for all those involved.

"Since the tornado struck on Thursday afternoon, the council has been working round the clock, with the emergency services, to make sure the area which has been hit is safe and secure so that as many residents as possible can return to their homes."