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CD emergency as tornado swarm hits

Published: 7:46PM Thursday July 05, 2007 Source: Newstalk ZB/One News

A Civil Defence emergency has been declared in the New Plymouth district following another swarm of tornados which has destroyed houses and left thousands without power.

It is thought that six tornados hit the Taranaki region, most of them within a 15 kilometre radius of New Plymouth. Bell Block, Egmont Village and Waitara have all been affected, with the most serious damage centred on Oakura.

Tornados travelled through Oakura and damaged around 40 to 50 houses, many of which are now uninhabitable.

"It ripped right down the side...took a bit of the front of my place off, pushed the windows right in," says Oakura resident Clive Neeson.

Some in the neighbourhood have been left destitute and a welfare centre has been set up in the town for those left homeless.

"I''ve just come back from the airport. My baby's in the car, my husband's overseas and my house has basically been ripped to pieces," says Catherine Ongley.

The tornados are thought to have swept across an area of more than a 100 kilometres and have left an estimated 8,000 people without power.

The main state highway south out of New Plymouth was blocked and a bridge was taken out.

It is understood a man became trapped in a house in Hawera while a group of people were reportedly trapped in a car by power lines near Opunake.

However, only two cases of minor injuries have been reported.

Live power cables are scattered across roads and power has been cut to houses throughout the area. The Fire Service says trees are on fire in Waitara, set alight by fallen power lines.

While the main hazard is live power wires that are down, roads are re-opening and some power is being restored.

Police say stock has made its way onto roads and police are directing traffic.

Civil Defence says a clear picture of the extent of the damage will not be known until day break.

It has also warned Wanganui residents to batten down the hatches as the tornado moves south.

Taranaki Regional Council has an emergency management office Ph: 0800 736 222, although anyone requiring police, fire, or medical services should dial 111.

Oakura builder Todd Burkett saw three tornados although he says there was no spout visible.

Burkett says the local kindergarten has lost its roof, rain is pouring into the building, and power lines are down around it. He says one house lost all of its windows and part of the roof is gone.

A weather analyst says a large squall line is moving across the area, and contains some big thunderstorms. The weather outlook for Friday is reportedly not good.

The tornados come after one wreaked havoc in New Plymouth's CBD on Wednesday, leaving a three-kilometre line of destruction as it made its way from the sea to the racecourse.

Tornados also affected Tauranga, Whakatane and south-east Auckland on Wednesday.

Do you have amcam or still footage of the tornados? Or do you want to share your tornado experience with ONE News? Contact our Wellington bureau at

For up to date weather forecasts for your region check out the weather page