AUCKLAND, New Zealand, May 3 (Xinhua) — A sudden and powerful tornado left a trail of destruction through New Zealand’s largest city of Auckland on Tuesday, killing one person, injured 14 others.
The tornado hit Auckland’s North Shore at about 3 p.m. local time on Tuesday, affecting the suburbs of Albany, Birkenhead, Glenfield and Kaipatiki.
Earlier reports had said as many as three people had died when the tornado, with winds of more than 200 kmh, but police later said they could only confirm one death.
“Initial reports that there were two or three deaths are incorrect and we can only confirm one death at the moment. We believe that to be accurate,” said Inspector Gary Davey, Waitemata police area commander.
The twister caused widespread damage and led to the evacuation of scores of buildings.
Auckland Council Civil Defense activated its emergency co- ordination center after a request for help from emergency services.
Ambulance service St John medical director Tony Smith said there were multiple injuries and 13 ambulances were in the area.
Local resident Gregg Wycherley told Xinhua that several stores were missing parts of their roofs in the mall and many vehicles were “absolutely smashed.”
“Cars are upside down — they looked like they’ve been stomped on by a giant,” he said. “It couldn’t have happened in a worse place — a couple of hundred meters in either direction and it would have passed through farm paddocks.”
Weatherwatch.co.nz head analyst Philip Duncan, said the tornado winds hit an estimated 200 kmh.
He said damaging tornadoes of that strength were rare in New Zealand but occurred every few years.
Tuesday’s tornado is the second fatal twister to hit the area in 20 years.
In May 1991, a tornado hit Albany, lifting roofing iron from homes and destroying a small church on the south-western side of the suburb.