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article imageRare tornado hits Auckland, New Zealand, 3 dead (video)

By Anne Sewell     Dec 6, 2012 in Environment
Auckland - Auckland, New Zealand has been hit by extreme weather on Thursday, with a tornado, thunderstorms and very heavy rain. 3 people have died and many have been evacuated.
The storm hit the western suburbs of the Auckland metropolitan area at around noon on Thursday, and was one of the deadliest tornadoes New Zealand has seen in 60 years. While it only lasted around five minutes, extensive damage was caused to the Hobsonville and Whenuapai districts.
Streets in the area, along with around 150 houses, were flooded by the storm and an evacuation was called for the hardest-hit areas. Auckland council spokesman Glyn Walters said some of those homes had roofs torn off or were severely damaged, while others had more minor damage or had lost power.
Tornado hits Auckland  New Zealand  December 6  2012.
Tornado hits Auckland, New Zealand, December 6, 2012.
According to Walters, the worst weather appeared to have passed by mid-afternoon, "It's clearing up slightly but people need to be careful out there," he said.
Of the fatalities, one person was hit by a tree and two construction workers at a school died when concrete slabs fell on them. Seven people, injured by the storm, were taken to hospitals in the area, and around 250 residents were evacuated to the Whenuapai Air Force base.
According to an Auckland Council spokesperson, the winds tore off roofs, uprooted trees and overturned lightweight structures. Electricity was interrupted in many locations, and some streets were blocked by flooding from the heavy rains.
There were a significant number of delays to both domestic and international flights due to the storm. Air New Zealand has warned passengers to check the arrivals and departures information on their website before leaving home.
Air NZ Communications Manager, Marie Hosking, said, "The situation is constantly changing. Our staff are working hard to recover the situation, however, we have delays across our domestic and international networks this evening and the flow on effect of today’s extreme weather disruption is likely to flow into tomorrow morning."
While the wind speed of the tornado itself was not measured, the Whenuapai Air Force base registered gale-force winds of 110 kph during the storm.
Auckland was not alone, as three hours later, a smaller tornado hit Rotorua, a town around 235 kilometers from Auckland.
According to Wendy Branch, who manages a riding school known as The Farmhouse, the tornado sent calves flying, horses were hurt, and schoolchildren were left stranded at the remote riding school near Rotorua. Branch said she saw calves being tossed in the air near Hamurana, about 20 kilometers northwest of Rotorua. Some of the 80 horses they care for sustained injuries, she said.
Branch said that a trampoline was blown through the wall of the house where she and her husband live, causing extensive damage and a large hole in the roof.
Tornado hits Auckland  New Zealand  December 6  2012.
Tornado hits Auckland, New Zealand, December 6, 2012.
In New Zealand, tornadoes are relatively rare, only occur around seven times per year and are usually mild. They generally measure around 30 meters wide and seldom reach a really destructive force.
The previous worst-recorded tornado was in May 2011, where a tornado in Auckland killed one person. Before this, in 1948, a tornado in the city of Hamilton caused three fatalities.
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