Clean-up begins after New Zealand tornado

2011-05-04 13:01

Wellington - A major clean-up began in tornado-hit Auckland on Wednesday, as authorities in New Zealand's largest city expressed amazement that the destructive twister resulted in only one death.

Winds exceeding 200km/h tore through the suburb of Albany when the tornado hit without warning on Tuesday afternoon, flipping cars, uprooting trees and shearing the roof off a shopping mall.

A 37-year-old construction worker, originally from the Philippines, was killed when the swirling winds picked him up and threw him into a concrete wall, civil defence officials said.

Student nurse Sophie Bond said she rushed to help the man, who has not been named, but he had suffered a major head injury and could not be saved.

"It was too late, there was a lot of blood and when we rolled him over to try to perform CPR we could see that he had a very bad head wound," she told Radio New Zealand.

Another 14 people were injured and local MP Jonathan Coleman said it was "a miracle" no one else was killed.

"It was a powerful force of nature, we're lucky that the damage wasn't a heck of a lot greater but there's still quite a mess to clear up today," he told reporters.

String of disasters

Emergency crews began the clean up at first light, restoring power, removing felled trees and clearing wrecked vehicles from roads.

The tornado was the latest in a string of disasters to hit New Zealand, including two earthquakes in Christchurch, the second of which claimed more than 180 lives, and a colliery explosion in November in which 29 miners died.

The Insurance Council of New Zealand said damage from the twister was likely to be "in the tens of millions of dollars", placing further pressure on an industry already facing billions in payouts from the Christchurch earthquakes.

"Dramatic video footage tells us that the cost will be reasonably high once all claims are in," chief executive Chris Ryan told the New Zealand Herald.

The worst-hit area was the Albany Mega Centre, one of the country's largest shopping malls.

It remained cordoned off on Wednesday but civil defence officials said they were assessing whether parts of it could re-open later in the day.