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Three dead after Auckland tornado (+video, photos)

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New Zealand News | Thursday December 6 2012 12:35

Three dead after Auckland tornado (+video, photos)

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DEATHS CONFIRMED AFTER STORM

The death toll from the storm that's hit West Auckland this afternoon stands at three.

Civil Defence confirmed the deaths in a statement this afternoon.

The deaths occurred when concrete slabs fell on workers at a building site.

Fire, police and ambulance are racing to multiple callouts in Hobsonville and Upper Harbour.

Personnel at the nearby military base have been called to assist.

The wind, accompanied by heavy rain, tore down trees and ripped wooden panels from beside the motorway.

Prime Minister John Key has extended his condolences to the friends and families of the people who died when the tornado struck his West Auckland electorate

He's also thanking emergency services staff, who responded.

VIDEO: The storm as seen from the Newstalk ZB news centre

AUDIO: Newstalk ZB's Juliette Sivertsen reports from Hobsonville

AUDIO: New Lynn MP David Cunliffe calls in to Danny Watson Afternoons

PHOTOS: Your photos of the Auckland storm

Meanwhile, a number of trees are down after what some describe as a mini-tornado at Ngongotaha in Rotorua this afternoon.

And there may be a chance of a tornado hitting the Coromandel Peninsula or the Bay of Plenty tonight.

The MetService says the thunderstorms that have been battering Auckland are now moving to the east and south of the city.

Meteorologist Daniel Corbett says the tornado risk has now passed for Auckland - but the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty areas are still in for wild weather.

He says there's a potential for a tornado in those areas as there's a severe thunderstorm watch in place in the region until 8:30pm.

WHENUAPAI VILLAGE ALMOST IN LOCKDOWN

Whenuapai village is almost in lockdown - residents are without power and can't get out because of the huge amount of debris blocking roads.

Suzanne McFadden says the community's made sure elderly residents are safe and animals are fed if their owners can't get home.

She says the place looks like a bomb has gone off.

"It's just, a scene of very unusual devastation really."

Suzanne McFadden says residents have been warned to stay inside.

Some children from Whenuapai School are stuck there because their parents are trapped in their homes and can't pick them up.

The school miraculously escaped damage when tornados ripped around them.

Principal Warren Spanhake says they got lightning and thunder but didn't see any of the horrendous damage.

"I think when they go home this evening, or drive past and actually see the devastation, I think it'll probably hit home on them.

"It was just very, very heavy rain."

Warren Spanhake says school bus routes were cancelled because there's a lot of debris on the roads and some are impassable.

There are likely to just be a handful left by dinner time, and they'll be fed takeaways from across the road.

STORM "EXPLODING INTO LIFE"

WeatherWatch analyst Philip Duncan says this front is exploding into life.

"These thunderstorms and these fronts, they kind of breathe, they have a life of their own, and you see them when you watch them on the radar you can see them growing and looking more and more intense."

Philip Duncan is advising people to stay indoors until the torrential rain has passed.

Callers say the tornado had brought down lights on the motorway and there were "dozens and dozens"of trees on the side of the road.

The tornado hit the Upper Harbour Motorway near Whenuapai.

MetService has issued severe thunder warnings and possibly small tornadoes for the Waikato, accompanied by heavy rain and hail.

MetService has also stated there's a likelihood of severe gusts up to 110 kilometres per hour.

EMERGENCY SERVICES RESPOND

Soldiers and sniffer dogs are going in and out of houses on Kay Crescent and Wallingford Way in Hobsonville looking for anyone who is trapped.

Contractors are clearing vast amounts of trees and debris from the streets, and most of the houses on the two streets are damaged.

Some have lost their entire rooves.

Trees have been blown through many of the windows, and most of the houses have lost roofing tiles.

A building at the Whenuapai Pony Club has collapsed.

A team of USAR staff are helping on the Hobsonville Point building site where concrete slabs have collapsed killing three people.

A Fire Service spokeswoman says they happened to be conducting a building site two streets away and immediately offered their assistance.

Civil Defence is now controlling events surrounding the tornado that struck west Auckland Auckland this afternoon.

Civil Defence Minister Chris Tremain says the authorities are at the scene.

Mr Tremain says they've set up a hub and emergency services are responding to the situation.

MetService is warning there could be more tornados in the next few hours.

The Fire Service in Auckland is scrambling to deal with calls after what appears to be a tornado ripped through the area around Herald Island.

The St Johns Ambulance has confirmed it's transported seven people to North Shore and Auckland hospital.

They have sustained moderate injuriesfrom today's tornadoes.

The victims are from the Hobsonville and Greenhithe area.

Numerous flights in and out of Auckland Airport have been delayed or cancelled because of the weather.

WIDESPREAD DAMAGE

The Hobsonville motorway, including the Squadron Road on and off ramps - is now fully open.

In Hobsonville, the wind has smashed windows in houses at the near the Air Force base.

There's also surface flooding on New North Road, in Mount Roskill.

People driving on the northwestern motorway at Hobsonville say it was frightening.

They're describing it as being like a tornado - saying they feared for their lives when a blast of wind tore off huge wooden panels lining the motorway and crumpled a light tower - all while it was pouring with rain.

One caller to our newsroom says the windows were blown out of the house where her daughter is, in Hobsonville.

She says the television was also smashed.

Meanwhile, another Newstalk ZB caller, Barney, has described it as scary weather.

"I've just got off at Point Chevalier just for fear of my life pretty much.

"Surface water is terrible, visibility is awful and nobody's putting their lights on."

A man caught on the water in the bad weather been rescued by passersby on Tamaki Drive.

Newstalk ZB caller Susan says the heavens just opened.

"It was like a catamaran-type boat, but the waves just got really rough and he was being pulled into the shore quite quickly so we were able to grab a rope and pull it in."

Do you have photos of the wild weather where you are? Email us: edward@newstalkzb.co.nz

Photo: Trees toppled in Hobsonville (Kevin Hickey)

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