7 Dec 2012

22 homes uninhabitable after deadly tornado

10:25 pm on 7 December 2012

West Auckland residents have been allowed back into their homes, some to just secure the properties and recover belongings following Thursday's deadly tornado. Twenty-two homes are uninhabitable.

The tornado struck part of the suburb of Hobsonville about 1pm on Thursday, killing three men who were working on a school building site.

Tom Stowers 42, from Massey, Keith Langford, 60, from Tuakau and Brendon Johnson, 22, from Massey died when a wall of concrete fell on them. Seven others were injured and four remain in hospital in a stable condition.

About one square kilometre of Hobsonville was badly affected by the tornado and 280 houses have so far been assessed.

Civil Defence lifted a cordon on Friday evening so that affected residents could check on their homes. Controller Clive Manley says 22 properties in Whenuapai and Hobsonville have been assessed as uninhabitable and their owners won't be able to stay.

Many other houses need major repairs and some residents are likely to be out of their homes for months. Many of those affected are military personnel and their families.

Mr Manley says people inside the cordon will have to be very cautious.

A refuge centre has been set up at Whenuapai Air Base, assisting people whose homes have been damaged.

Civil Defence said preliminary estimates suggest that the tornado has caused about $11 million worth of damage.

Police and contractors continued to clear roads of debris on Friday before power companies moved in to remove fallen lines and restore electricity to hundreds of customers.

Health and Safety officials spent the day at the school construction site where the three workers were killed.

Auckland airport was operating as normal on Friday. Most of the passengers grounded by Thursday's storm have been rescheduled and the backlog of delays cleared.

Residents may be without power over weekend

Many residents in the rural community of Whenuapai could face a weekend without power following the tornado and spent the day clearing up.

Lines company Vector says about 450 properties remain without power in west Auckland on Friday night. It says progress on repairing the high voltage network has gone well, as have repairs on the low voltage section.

Vector says more people are expected to have their electricity connected overnight.

The worst-affected area is around Scott Road and the Air Force base. Residents around Puriri, Totara, and Waimarie roads were also without power on Friday.

Vector said eight power poles and three transformers were damaged by fallen trees and it could be late on Sunday before some parts of the suburb have power restored.

PM says tragedy could have been worse

The Prime Minister says the scale of the tornado tragedy could have been much worse.

John Key visited the construction site on Friday where three workers were crushed to death. He said no-one saw the tornado coming, it was incredibly intense and he had "never seen anything like this" before in New Zealand.

"It's far more significant than a very bad storm where you have a few trees down. It's something you might expect to see in the midwest of America, but not in Hobsonville.

"The bigger issue for people, other than the families, clearly, that have suffered the enormous tragedy of losing a loved one, will really be about finding alternative accommodation, because it's quite clear that there'll be many families not returning to their homes over Christmas."

Mr Key said the Government would provide assistance to those left without anywhere to live.

More bad weather

MetService said combination of cold and warm weather system which caused the tornado has moved to the east of New Zealand on Friday.

It said there would be a mix of showers and fine breaks and the occasional thunderstorm in the North Island on Friday, but nothing like Thursday. Heavy rain and wind gusts of up to 100km/h were forecast.