Auckland tornado: Neighbourhood torn apart

16:00, Dec 06 2012
Auckland thunderstorm
A motorist captured this picture on Auckland's North Shore as grey clouds hit the city.
Auckland thunderstorm
Heavy rain causes flash flooding just after midday in Auckland.
Auckland thunderstorm
Guttering fails to cope with the heavy rain in Auckland.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
The view from a city centre office, taken by a Twitter user.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Flooding begins in Glen Eden.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Dark clouds gather over Takapuna.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
The storm rages in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
The aftermath of the tornado in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Sharon White with her three year old son, and their overturned trampoline.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Emergency services arrive in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Heavy rain at the Dotcom mansion.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Storm damage in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Storm damage in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Storm damage obstructs a road.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Storm damage in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Storm damage in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm
Damage to housing in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Inner Auckland is hit with rain.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Auckland city around noon today, from www.sitecam.co.nz/auckland_webcam/.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Emergency services work to free people trapped by a concrete slab on a building site in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Destruction on Wallingford Way in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Emergency services work amongst destruction on Wallingford Way in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Emergency services work amongst destruction on Wallingford Way in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Destruction on Wallingford Way in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Destruction in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
A trampoline flung into a house in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
An emergency worker in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
The remains of a double car garage in Whenuapai.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Damage in Hobsonville.
Auckland thunderstorm December 5
Road flooding in Auckland.
Auckland tornado
Fire rescue crew work to free people trapped by a concrete slab on a building site near Walingford Way in Hobsonville.
Auckland tornado
A fire rescue crew at a building site near Walingford Way in Hobsonville.

It took less than a minute.

Huddled in cupboards, sheltered in stairways, crouched low, the residents of a small West 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.

'I MIGHT BE IN SHOCK': Debbie Booty.
'I MIGHT BE IN SHOCK': Debbie Booty.

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

Glass crunches under our feet. Without a roof to keep the downpour out, the carpet and walls are soaked.

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

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Mrs 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 under way 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.

Mrs Booty was forced to shelter in a wardrobe, willing it to be over. "I'm just shaking," she says. "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 window sill.

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, I can see every house. Fences no longer block the view. Every tree has been uprooted. The metal washing line now twisted on the ground. Only the barbecue, covered with a waterproof cover, appears intact.

Mrs Booty says her husband, who is in the 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. The sheer force of the wind has squashed every street sign against the ground.

Few roofs remain intact. One aluminum roof is curled in a frontyard. 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, their homes no longer provide any safety.

A red ‘X' has been painted on condemned houses.

Nearly 250 residents from uninhabitable homes had been given shelter at the Whenuapai air force base.

Across the road from Mrs Booty's home, the concrete slabs that once formed the school wall have crushed a truck. Three constructions workers who had been at the site said the primary school provided shelter for them.

Workers on the other side were not so lucky. One of the men said they were initially not aware of the full extent of the destruction.

"It hit really quickly. Everything was vibrating and the scaffolding came down. When it hit, the visibility went really poor. You couldn't see anything."

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