By Kim Chisnall
A tornado has struck Auckland’s North Shore, killing one person and injuring at least 20 others.
A trail of wrecked shops, homes and offices have been left in its wake.
Traffic was brought to a standstill on much of the North Shore and as the sky darkened, torrential rain and fell before the tornado struck – first the Albany Megacentre, then heading south through Glenfield, across the Waitemata Harbour to suburbs on the city side of the bridge, before petering out.
The tornado started off looking like a smoke cloud, but as it gathered strength it started picking up whatever was in its path - people, parts of buildings and cars.
At the Albany Megacentre, customers rushed outside in panic.
“At that moment it just came over our store and we were being sucked back in and all the customers were being sucked back in,” says shopper Jennie Sutherland.
“All of a sudden water just came down, so it must have passed us very quickly.”
The Farmers store lost its roof in the wind. One worker tells 3 News she hid under a table.
“All the rubbish was flying through the building and the whole thing just took off. Then the doors opened and closed, everybody rushed to the carpark and there were cars flying over,” says Diana Roberts.
Across the road at Pak ‘N Save supermarket, Helena Campbell went outside to find her car wasn’t where she had left it.
“Much to my amazement, [the tornado] has actually lifted it over the wall,” she says.
Those outside when the tornado hit had nowhere to hide, and some were lifted into the air.
One man who was picked up and “thrown about 20 metres” escaped with a grazed arm.
Civil Defence have confirmed there are two dead and many others injured.
“We’ve had a number of people injured across quite a wide area of Albany,” says St John’s Regional Operations Manager Murray Holt.
“At the moment we have transported a total of 14 patients to hospital, some with critical injuries and some with minor injuries.”
North Shore Hospital says they have transferred two to Auckland Hospital with serious injuries.
The damage wasn’t confined to Albany – in Birkenhead trees were ripped out of the ground and roofs were damaged.
It may have only lasted a matter of minutes, but the people of North Shore will be remembering this tornado for a long time.