At least one person was killed and 20 others injured when a tornado ripped across part of New Zealand’s largest city today.
The swirling dark-grey column of air and cloud cut a three-mile (5km) path across the Auckland suburb of Albany, tearing off roofing iron, flattening trees and overturning vehicles, police and witnesses said.
“There were kids in a car which turned upside down and they had to get help,” said Hamish Blair, whose golf supplies store was in the hardest-hit area. “There’s probably six or seven seriously damaged cars, and I saw cars flying off the ground about 30m (100ft) in the air.”
The tornado first touched down in Albany and then passed through neighbouring Birkenhead. Most of the serious damage was in Albany, where a shopping centre, a large hardware store and a supermarket were hit. Radio New Zealand reported that the roof of the Mega Centre mall in Albany collapsed.
Paul Patton, a spokesman for North Shore Hospital, said one person had been killed and at least 20 injured.
Tornados are not uncommon in New Zealand, particularly on the country’s North Island, where Auckland lies. But they tend to be smaller than those seen in the US Midwest. Auckland generally gets one or two tornadoes a year, according to New Zealand’s Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management.
New Zealand has been hit by several disasters in recent months, including an earthquake on February 22 which devastated the South Island city of Christchurch and killed at least 169 people.