1 dead as tornado hits New Zealand city

2011-05-03 12:42
A wrecked car sits below a damaged roof at the Albany Mall in suburban Auckland, New Zealand after a tornado ripped through. (Brett Phibbs, AP)

A wrecked car sits below a damaged roof at the Albany Mall in suburban Auckland, New Zealand after a tornado ripped through. (Brett Phibbs, AP)

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Wellington - A tornado hit New Zealand's largest city Auckland on Tuesday, killing one person and injuring dozens more as the twister ripped the roof off a suburban shopping mall.

Television footage showed huge pieces of debris flying through the air after the tornado hit, flipping over cars and uprooting trees as it carved a trail of destruction in the suburb of Albany.

Witnesses said the tornado sounded like "a giant vacuum cleaner" when it tore across the Albany Megacentre shopping mall.

Police said details of the tornado's impact remained sketchy but at least one man was killed and more than 20 people injured.

Witness Rob Crawford said the scene resembled a disaster movie.

"Car parks scattered with the remains of trees, upturned cars. There's iron off the roof... it's surreal," he told the New Zealand Herald.

"It's a movie set. (You think) is this real, is this happening? But when you see people lying on the ground, covered in blood, clutching their heads, it's damn real."

One witness told Sky News that cars were crushed with people inside.

The Auckland city council said an emergency centre had been set up to co-ordinate relief efforts.

New Zealand Metservice meteorologist Peter Kreft said the tornado hit without warning and the damage stretched for kilometres, with the eye of the storm measuring more than 10m wide.

He said such twisters were relatively rare in New Zealand.

"Tornadoes in New Zealand are typically of that size, they're nothing like the size that are observed in the Midwest of the US," he told Radio New Zealand.

"So while it's a tragic and devastating event for the area it's passed over, in the broader scheme of things it's a relatively small tornado."

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