Herald on Sunday
‘Like a bomb’
Auckland’s tornado terror
● Thousands of Papatoetoe residents have lucky escapes as the freak weather lifted roofs, tossed vehicles, downed power lines and uprooted trees.
● More than 1200 homes were affected — at least 60 ‘uninhabitable’ — after a tornado tore a path of devastation through South Auckland.
● One person was killed after being lifted in the air and thrown a distance at a Wiri container yard. ● ‘It sounded like a plane landing on our house... Everyone was in total shock, disbelief and crying,’ one resident said.
One person is dead, one injured and residents of more than 1200 homes are picking up the pieces after a tornado ripped through South Auckland.
It struck just before 8.30am, tearing off roofs and garage doors, uprooting trees, smashing windows, toppling a truck and power poles as stunned residents cowered and prayed in their homes from Manurewa to Papatoetoe.
Most of the affected homes were still without power last night, Auckland Emergency Management controller Parul Sood said.
Fire and Emergency and Urban Search and Rescue teams said 60 homes were uninhabitable.
Assessments would continue today, so the number of tornadodamaged homes could increase, Sood said.
At a Ports of Auckland yard on Wiri Station Rd, dozens of stacked shipping containers collapsed as the powerful funnel crossed Wiri, with at least one container weighing 30 tonnes tossed into the air.
A contractor not employed directly for the Auckland Councilowned port company was killed and an injured truck driver was taken to Middlemore Hospital with moderate injuries, a St John spokeswoman said.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff said he’d been told the person died after the force of the wind threw them some distance in the air and they then struck a solid object.
“The force of the wind was so strong that 30-tonne containers were being picked up and blown about.”
A person at the yard described the scene as “carnage”, with distraught workers watching as three ambulances, a specialist response team and multiple police officers rushed to help, with someone being “worked on” in the back of an ambulance.
As well as toppled containers, signs from the neighbouring motorway were also blown onto the site, Ports of Auckland spokesman Matt Ball said.
“We’re very shocked by what is a horrendous freak event and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the people who’ve been affected. This will be difficult for our staff. They’re not just affected by what’s happened at work, many of them also live in the area.”
Papatoetoe and Manurewa residents described terrifying scenes as the tornado cut a swathe of destruc
tion across parts of both suburbs, sparking 100 calls to Fire and Emergency New Zealand. More than 20 crews were sent to help.
Because the tornado, although destructive, was localised and brief it didn’t cross paths with any wind gauges, so wind speeds weren’t known, MetService forecaster Gerard Bellam said. The rain gauge at Auckland Airport in Mangere recorded 25mm in the hour to 9am yesterday, with the downpours “a good indication of the amount of energy that was around”, he said.
Many residents were still asleep or only just awake when the noise of the tornado alerted them to the approaching danger.
“The noise was horrendous. It sounded like a plane was landing on our house,” said Annelise Greenfield, who huddled in the hallway with her husband and three kids, praying, as the tornado tore up Grande Vue Rd in Papatoetoe. “My 10-year-old thought she was going to die.”
Emerging outside they found their letterbox at the front door, their shed’s roof in a neighbouring street and a neighbour’s van flipped.
“It was quite devastating and there’s a lot of people in shock.”
Other residents discovered trampolines and roofs of unknown origin on properties, and wrought iron fences bent by the powerful winds.
At Papatoetoe’s 136 St George Motel, Lutia Leuila watched rubbish, debris and dust fly through the air, accompanied by a “tremendous” noise. “It was like a bomb.”