Kiama evacuees try to pick up the pieces

A surfboard, blanket and a thermos were among the treasured items Kiama man Rob Nelson plucked from his unit when he was briefly allowed into his home yesterday.

After being evacuated from his Minnamurra Street unit earlier this week due to the threat of asbestos, Mr Nelson was relocated by his real estate agent to a nearby leisure park.

It's not home, but for now Mr Nelson is just happy to have a solid roof over his head.

Last night he and other residents forced out after Sunday morning's massive tornado were allowed to return, wearing protective masks and clothing, to pick up some personal effects.

He is now awaiting word on when he can return home permanently.

A few days have now passed since the F1 tornado tore a destructive path through Kiama's Minnamurra Street and Swan Place and onwards inland, but the shock is still fresh for Mr Nelson.

Reliving the events of that morning, the plasterer struggles to find the words to explain the terror he experienced.

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Mr Nelson, who lives alone in a rented unit, was sound asleep when the tornado hit his building early Sunday morning.

"I didn't hear the wind, I just heard all the debris just flying down the footpath and smashing things and I saw a big flash of light, like a fire going off," he said.

"I kind of went back to sleep thinking it was the garbage that blew over."

But when he heard a smoke alarm blaring from across the road and the stirring of neighbours in disbelief, he peered out the window and saw a nearby home's roof flapping in the wind.

"I went outside and I couldn't get out, there was a lump of roofing iron next to my door so I had to stick my hand around and lift it up to get out, and then it was just chaos," he said.

Sheets of tin, a toppled tree and copious amounts of insulation littered the yard, and Mr Nelson's car had been pummelled by lumps of wood.

"The power lines were down all the way up the street, the one that's connected to our house was laying on the front fence," he said.

"I think we were all in shock, we didn't know what it was, it was horrendous."

Stepping back into his unit, Mr Nelson discovered his ceiling was now dripping like rain.

"I got about an hour's sleep on the lounge, trying to block it out or, I don't know," he said.

He was evacuated the following day and has set up home in his temporarily lodgings.

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