Auckland tornado leaves three dead and causes 'utter devastation'
Powerful Auckland tornado leaves three dead, with trees toppled and roofs ripped off houses
Agence France-Presse in Wellington
A freak tornado hit Auckland yesterday, killing three people and causing "utter devastation" as wild weather ripped apart homes and caused flash flooding in New Zealand's largest city.
The storm, packing gusts of more than 110km/h, struck suburban Hobsonville in the afternoon, toppling trees, ripping roofs from houses and sending debris flying.
Civil Defence said three people died and seven were admitted to hospital, with two of the fatalities believed to have been caused by a concrete slab that landed on the cabin of a truck and the other by a falling tree. The tornado was the deadliest in New Zealand in more than 60 years.
About 150 homes were badly damaged, many rendered uninhabitable, forcing residents into temporary accommodation at a nearby air force base.
Suzanne McFadden said the storm roared through in "five minutes of utter devastation".
"It honestly looks like a bomb has gone off in the street," she told NewstalkZB.
"I saw it coming across the river, the air went very electric and the sky went black. And then the wind started to whistle."
Police urged people to stay indoors as flash floods blocked roads and falling trees brought down power lines, blacking out about 1,300 homes.
Construction worker Sam Nuttall said the storm came without warning.
"You couldn't see it coming," he told reporters.
"There was debris flying everywhere, steel flying around. We were sheltering between a big block wall and a truck and there were crates and everything flying at the truck, breaking the windows.
"I've never been in weather like that before."
The Metservice weather agency said the tornado was created by a series of intense thunderstorms that lashed the city through the day, largely dissipating by early evening, although there were fears the winds could pick up overnight.
Prime Minister John Key expressed condolences to the families of the dead and praised the emergency services, who swiftly sealed off an area of about one square kilometre that was worst affected by the tornado.