One person has died and at least 20 injured by a massive tornado that swept across the Albany Megacentre shopping mall, in the Auckland suburb of Auckland this afternoon. Later reports said that a second person had been killed but these were incorrect.
The deceased man was later named as 37 year old Benedict Dacayan, who was married with two children. Mr Dacayan, a Filipino citizen, was a construction worker employed By Fletcher Building. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to his wife and children.
Witnesses say that the Placemakers building was ripped apart by the 200km/hr twister and shoppers fled in panic as roofing sheets and cars were flung high into the air. There are also reports of an explosion at the Albany sub-station.
Half of Glenfield is without power, cars with people still in them have been crushed by trees and water mains have burst. A reporter at the scene says it is quite reminiscent of the Christchurch earthquake. The last time Albany was damaged by a tornado was in 1991 when the suburb was just a small township.
A report on Stuff said
The tornado touched down in Albany on Auckland’s North Shore and then moved south to Birkenhead, briefly touching down again in the Waitemata Harbour, before heading west to Pt Chevalier.
It lifted roofs, flipped cars, uplifted trees and left a 5km trail of debris about 3pm…more here
This time of day was just about the worst time for the twister to form as roads became busy with post-school traffic.
Weatherwatch said they’d had “reports of cars lifted and thrown, roofs taken off and trees uprooted, which is consistent with an EF1 or EF2 tornado – winds averaging somewhere between 180 and 220km/hr”. This was later revised up to a EF2 or EF 3.
Although tornadoes of this severe magnitude are unusual in Auckland region a funnel cloud was spotted in southern Auckland on 9 March 2011, see video below.
According to the Auckland Council’s emergency management department’s website
Tornados frequently occur in Auckland but Aucklands tornados are much smaller than the very large ones that occur in the midwest of the United States.
Tornados are a mass of unstable air rotating up to 244 km/hr which rises rapidly around a centre of unstable air. On average, 1-2 tornadoes and watersprouts (tornadoes over water) are reported in Auckland every year. In New Zealand they usually have a damage path 10-20 m wide and 1-5 km long, and usually only have a life of around 15 minutes.
Consequences of Damaging Tornados in Auckland
In Auckland, damaging tornadoes have a return period in the order of 2-3 years, and have caused damage to:
- buildings and power lines (August 1980; May 1982; September 1986; August 1992; March 1997) – up to 50 houses received damage in August 1992
- fences and trees (August 1980; September 1986; August 1992)
- only 1 life is known to have been lost in tornado events in Auckland.
Tornado in Albany, May 1991:
During May 1991, a tornado hit the small township of Albany, north of Auckland causing roofing iron to be lifted from homes and the destruction of a small church that was located on the south-western side of the village. No severe injuries occurred, but one man died when debris spread by the tornado collided with him while he was driving a bulldozer.
Our thoughts are with the family of the deceased person and with those who were injured today.