Storm could've been a killer

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 12:18 23/09/2013

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Violent lightning that cracked the walls and blew out the power sockets in an Auckland house could well have killed those sleeping inside, a firefighter says.

Resident Tasha Michell says she and her partner were awoken at around 2.15am yesterday when their Birkenhead home was struck by lightning during a heavy electrical storm.

The force of the lightning bolt was enough to shatter a sliding glass door, crack the gib walls and blow the power sockets across the rooms of the Mokoia Rd rental property.

Two couples and two four-year-old children were sleeping inside at the time.

"We are lucky to be alive. There's no way we should have survived something like that," Michell says.

"It came through our bedroom. We saw a big white flash, there was a huge bang and the bed shook."

Flatmate Charlie Barker says at first she and her partner believed someone was trying to break in.

"We thought someone was intruding so my partner ran off to grab the hammer."

The impact caused the roof in the lounge to collapse allowing the pouring rain inside.

"We grabbed the kids and put them in the car outside, we took what we could and got out," she says.

Birkenhead firefighters arrived to put out a fire that had started in the insulation bats in the roof.

"The house started filling with thick smoke," Michell says.

Birkenhead Fire station officer Grant Mitcheson says the lightning looks to have struck the television aerial on the roof.

"It has blown out the fibrelight from under the eaves. The damage is pretty freaky.

"None of us have seen anything like it and the guy from the power company said he hasn't come across this type of thing in over 30 years."

Both couples have since moved out of the property as the damage is assessed and repairs are made.

It is not known why the home was struck while others nearby were spared.

"It's just one of those sheer freak of nature things we reckon," Michell says.

Mitcheson says damage caused by the storm kept North Shore fire crews busy throughout the night and early morning.

A playground awning at Northcote College was also struck by lightning at around 2am.

"It blew into the pohutukawa trees nearby and caused a bit of havoc," Mitcheson says.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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