Papatoetoe tornado victim Janesh Prasad: Parents unable to properly farewell son

Adam Pearse, John Weekes, Bernard Orsman, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 21 Jun 2021, 9:18AM
Janesh Prasad and his wife Mala. Photo / Supplied
Janesh Prasad and his wife Mala. Photo / Supplied

Papatoetoe tornado victim Janesh Prasad: Parents unable to properly farewell son

Adam Pearse, John Weekes, Bernard Orsman, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 21 Jun 2021, 9:18AM

Fiji's dire Covid-19 situation means the parents of Janesh Prasad, the man killed in South Auckland's freak tornado, won't be able to properly farewell their son.

Prasad, a diesel mechanic in his early 40s, was working at a Wiri container yard on Saturday morning when the tornado ripped through the Ports of Auckland site.

The Stellar Machinery employee was believed to have been working on a forklift when he died.

Prasad had almost no wider whānau in New Zealand, having migrated from Fiji about six years ago with wife Mala and children Ashley, 13, and Jesh, 10. His parents, who were in their 70s or 80s, still lived in Fiji.

Vishal Kumar, who said he and Prasad were "like brothers", explained with most of Prasad's family in Fiji, his body could have been sent home so his parents could say goodbye before he was cremated. But with the pandemic raging, this was difficult.

And with no quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Fiji - which recorded 150 new cases in a 24-hour period ending 8am on June 19 - Prasad's parents were unable to make the trip.

"It's hard to get words out of [Prasad's parents]", Kumar said, referencing their immense grief.

Prasad's Henderson-based family were just as shocked by the passing of their husband and father.

"The whole family is trying to come to terms with what just happened," Kumar said.

"What we read and what we heard, it's beyond imagination, you know?

"For me, I don't want to know details because it's quite hard."

Prasad was the family's sole earner and financially supported his whānau in Fiji. A Givealittle page had been set up, which had attracted more than $20,000 by Sunday evening.

However, Kumar said the family's residency was among their main concerns as Prasad had been about to gain permanent residency.

"We are still wondering what's going to happen because he was on Work to Residence visa and his two years were just coming up."

Kumar described Prasad and his family as "very tight" and "happy". He spoke of Prasad's generosity, often helping people during funerals.

"It was just his nature [to help people who were grieving]."

Prasad would be farewelled by friends and family on Wednesday. Prasad's family wanted to thank the people of New Zealand for the support they'd received.

A truck driver at the container yard was also injured. Dozens of shipping containers toppled over with at least one container weighing 30 tonnes tossed into the air during the freak event.

Meanwhile, more than 1200 homes were affected with more than 60 uninhabitable after the tornado tore off roofs and garage doors, uprooted trees, smashed windows, toppled vehicles and left stunned residents cowering and praying in their homes.

"The noise was horrendous … it sounded like a plane was landing on our house," said Annelise Greenfield, who huddled in the hallway with her husband and three kids, hugging and praying, as the tornado tore its way up Grande Vue Rd in Papatoetoe.

"My 10-year-old thought she was going to die."

Emerging outside they found their letterbox at the front door, their shed's roof in a neighbouring street, a neighbour's van flipped and several neighbouring homes without roofs.

"It was quite devastating and there's a lot of people in shock."

Following a night without power, Annelise had the immediate job today of taking her two teenage daughters to ballet in Papakura before being booked in for surgery today.

The Greenfields also have to repair damage to their home of 15 years before they move to a new home at Shelly Park in East Auckland and the new owner moves in.

The sale of the house went unconditional two weeks ago. Annelise said she had let the new owner know about the damage from the tornado. The new owner's insurance will pay for the repairs.

Melissa Siaea lived in a Papatoetoe block of flats, and each unit was gutted, with the building's entire roof ripped off and most windows obliterated.

"Out of all the windows, we're the only ones that haven't shattered," she said.

That was small consolation. She said rain fell in the South Auckland suburb after the tornado yesterday, and again today, turning her upstairs floor into a swamp.

The Government had given Auckland Council $100,000 to support residents.

Multiple witnesses have described the tornado as lasting only about 30-45 seconds. Auckland mayor Phil Goff said it was fortunate more lives weren't taken during the freak event.

"It's a miracle that actually there weren't dozens of serious injuries and even fatalities."