'I have never been so scared in my life'
Thu, 06 Dec 2012 10:55p.m.
By Jenny Suo
The tornado hit just before one this afternoon leaving a trail of destruction through the west Auckland suburbs of Hobsonville and Whenuapai and killing at least two people.
Emergency services this evening lifted the fallen concrete slabs that killed two workmen at the site of Hobsonville high school and removed their bodies.
Truck driver Kevin Johnson was working on the site.
“One of them was one of our labourers. He was working over in the other side and he ran to get in front of a truck and that was the last I saw of him.”
Just after midday a severe storm tore through the area leaving what resembled a war zone and seven people were taken to hospital.
As many as 150 homes were damaged, the winds took out windows, ripped off roofs, and uprooted trees. Anxious residents rushed home to check on their loved ones.
There's a 1km cordon around the worst affected areas tonight. Emergency services are working hard securing loose tiles and removing general debris in case high winds hit again.
Some houses have been damaged beyond repair and residents have been forced to stay elsewhere.
Clint Van Niekerk and his family returned to New Zealand after 12 years in South Africa last week. They moved into their new home yesterday and now it's beyond repair.
“A big tree fell on the roof,” Mr Van Niekerk says. “It was really loud. We went and hid in the toilet, the three of us.”
“I was really scared. I was trying to be brave for these two. Brian [my son] said ‘are we going to die dad’.”
They'll stay with relatives tonight, but those with no where to go went to the Whenuapai airbase where an evacuation centre was set up to organise emergency accommodation.
“We've helped over 230 people,” evacuation centre co-ordinator Glenn Gowthorpe says. “Military staff, military families and civilians in the area.”
Among them is Claudine Gillies. She was putting up Christmas decorations when the storm hit. As well as trees and debris, a nail when through her window and narrowly missed her head.
Now it's her lucky charm.
“I have never been so scared in my life,” Ms Gillies says. “Absolutely terrified. Just shaking and screaming, which isn’t like me at all. I’m an emergency call taker. I’m usually cool, calm and collected.”
Sixty-five police officers have been deployed around the worst hit areas. They will stay there over night to ensure damaged houses and valuables are protected.
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