Wooden homes snap like twigs

MARIKA HILL
Last updated 05:00 07/12/2012
Fairfax NZ

A tornado lasting for about five minutes has hit the Auckland suburb of Hobsonville this afternoon.

Auckland tornado
Fairfax NZ Zoom
A fire rescue crew at a building site near Walingford Way in Hobsonville.

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It took less than a minute.

Huddled in cupboards, sheltered in stairways, crouched low, the residents of a small Auckland street were faced with a terrifying force that tore their neighbourhood to pieces.

With just a few weeks to Christmas, Debbie Booty lost almost everything.

Her hands tremble as she takes us through her destroyed house. She's lived there for two years with her husband and teenage sons.

We can feel the crunch of glass under our feet. The carpet and walls are soaked.

There is no roof anymore to keep the downpour out.

She points up and we see the darkened clouds of the afternoon sky.

Booty was home alone when the tornado hit. Her house was in the centre of the devastation.

Just across the road where construction has been underway for the past year on one of the biggest joint primary and secondary school campuses in the country, two workers died as a concrete block crushed their truck.

Booty was forced to shelter in a cupboard, willing it to be over.

"I'm just shaking," she said afterwards.

"I might be in shock."

She points to another broken window, a wall torn in the force of the wind, doors left hanging in the wind.

A nervous laugh.

As we get to the final bedroom, she grips the windowsill.

An army officer wanders past outside and asks if everyone is accounted for.

"Yes," she yells back. She turns to me: "I haven't seen the cat. I hope that cat is ok."

Looking out to her backyard you can see every house. Fences no longer block the view.

This is not a few branches thrown about. Every tree has been uprooted. The metal washing line now twisted on the ground. Only the barbecue, covered with a waterproof cover, appears intact.

Booty said her husband, who is in the NZ Air Force, has only seen this type of destruction when cleaning up after tsunamis in the Pacific.

Many of the residents of Wallingford Way are Air Force families and were the first on the scene.

Inside the police cordon, the wooden homes that lined the street have been snapped like twigs.

Pairs of eyes stare out from houses. They stare through gaping holes where the windows once were. Others clutch a single bag of clothing as they are evacuated from their homes.

The rain has flooded the streets and every downpour sends another warning of a possible second tornado.

A chainsaw can be heard tearing through a branch. Sirens and the pounding rain echo through the street. Every street sign is squashed against the ground, showing the sheer force of the wind.

Few roofs remain intact. One aluminium roof is curled in a front yard.

Fences are butchered, broken glass and 10-metre tall trees are strewn across the street.

Emergency services and army personnel go door to door, checking for survivors and casualties.

For many residents, there's no longer any safe shelter.

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- Auckland Now

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