Auckland tornado: Residents face massive cleanup, with 60 homes left uninhabitable
As Alexandra Jacobee worked at the dining table, a tornado ravaged her street, tearing the roof above her head.
Jacobee said she screamed for her partner Joel Cornfoot and stepped away from the table just as a section of the roof lowered above where she was sitting.
It only took 30 seconds for the tornado to cross her street, but she said it caused significant damage to her home and yard.
One person died and hundreds of homes were damaged when the tornado swept through Papatoetoe on Saturday morning.
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A massive cleanup is underway in the southern suburbs of Auckland after shattered trees, collapsed chimneys and fractured roofs were strewn across the streets. Hundreds of houses were damaged.
Jacobee always cleans debris from the lawn and sweeps the kitchen. Followed by two little helpers, the neighborhood boys were carting a green wheelbarrow with debris.
“We’ve just figured out the next step – right over the phone trying to get tarps and supplies,” Cornfoot said.
The couple spent the night in their home, which was re-established just after 3 a.m.
“I haven’t slept,” Jacobee said, “I’ve had heaps,” Cornfoot followed.
Civil Defense and Fire and Emergency Services (FENZ) are leading work at Papatoetoe, working with Auckland Emergency Management to provide assistance, a spokesperson for FENZ said on Sunday morning.
Rescue teams would assess the damage throughout the day.
An information center has been set up at Allan Brewster Recreation Center, 7 Tavern Lane, Papatoetoe.
Representatives from Auckland Emergency Management, the Red Cross, the Department of Social Development and the Insurance Board would be at the center.
The tornado, which struck around 8 a.m., ripped roofs off houses, knocked down power lines, destroyed business premises and left debris strewn on roads and gardens, killing one worker and injuring at least two others at the South Auckland Freight Center in Auckland Ports.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff estimated on Saturday evening that more than 60 homes were uninhabitable.
On Sunday morning, Vector’s latest Auckland Emergency Management update said 200 homes in the affected areas were still without power.
Vector spokeswoman Sophie Coley said crews are still working to restore power to affected homes and expect them to be completed by 7 p.m. on Sunday.
Auckland Emergency Management Duty Controller Parul Sood said they were working on a phased approach in the process of cleaning up the roughly 1,200 properties affected by the tornado.
Sood said they would initially focus on cleaning up debris, fallen trees and hazardous construction materials, as well as assisting local communities.
Two families of around 11 spent the night in a social assistance center in Ōtara Swimming pool and leisure center on Newbury Street, she said.
There were many more who took refuge with friends and family, and at this point she did not have a total number of people displaced from their homes, she said.
The team would meet to set up a building inspection program to assess damage to the 60 properties deemed “uninhabitable” by FENZ.
Auckland Council GM Building Consents Ian McCormick said the team’s top priority is safety.
“Our inspectors will assess buildings to help homeowners and residents understand if their buildings can stay safe and advise on next steps.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for FENZ said three teams consisting of around 14 firefighters have been deployed to affected areas to continue cleanup efforts.
A police spokesperson said police provided comfort patrols over the weekend.
There have been no reports of looting and burglary of damaged properties, he said.