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Tornado aftermath: More storms forecast for New Plymouth

Up to 30 homes were damaged last night when a tornado roared through a New Plymouth suburb last night, cutting power lines, tearing off roofs, and toppling trees.

Residents and businesses are starting to assess the damage from tornadoes that tore through New Plymouth and the Bay of Plenty town of Ōhope.

MetService has issued a severe weather watch for Taranaki as it forecasted bursts of heavy showers, with possible thunderstorms and hail this for this evening and overnight.

The New Plymouth tornado struck the Belt Road, Gaine Street and Cutfield Road area at 4.50pm yesterday.

Locals said it roared up Belt Road for about 300m, smashing fences and lifting roofs.

Residents were extremely lucky there were no injuries, police said.

Sergeant Peter Lawn of New Plymouth police says up to 30 homes were damaged in the Belt Road and Gaine Street area about 3km west of the CBD.

"There's vast amounts of property damage that's been caused by the tornado. We're lucky at this stage that no-one's been injured or that we're aware of."

Mr Lawn said several roads in the area were closed overnight for safety and to protect properties from looting.

Last night, lines company Powerco was unable to say how many properties were still without electricity.

A Taranaki builder said a lot of his roof framing and iron had gone and he believed it would cost between $5000-$7000 to repair the damage.

He said he was cooking dinner when he heard a loud bang and saw stuff flying through the air.

"A massive, massive gust of wind and hail just bashed the house, and then power went out. It was all over in a matter of probably seconds really. Wondered about the house and the manhole was dislodged and looked up through that and could see sky, so knew something wasn't quite right."

His home is a 100-year-old villa and he was pleased he had not done too many renovations before the storm struck.

Belt Road resident Tom McElroy said the aftermath of the tornado was brutal.

"I was actually just lying on the bed and then started to hear this rumble and then I thought the windows were going to smash and then all of a sudden 'bang'. I don't what had happened and then went outside it was just carnage everywhere."

Resident Vanessa said about 30 or 40 homes have been damaged around the Gaine Street area where she lived and they were now waiting for insurance assessors to inspect the damage.

"The neighbourhood's been awesome. We've helped each other out and what have you and we've got people coming in the minute to help pack up and what needs to be packed up."

One of the owners of a New Plymouth holiday park said there was a tremendous noise as the wind hit blowing out windows and ripping branches off trees.

Anna Crawford said the terrifying tornado which lasted about 30 seconds also tore the roof off the next-door bowling club.

Central Districts Indoor Bowls club president Raewyn Dempsey was thankful no one was hurt.

"The tornado has gone through the middle of the hall and lifted the roof, peeled the roof right back and I believe inside its taken all of our ceiling down and dropped it all over the mats and bowls," Ms Dempsey said.

"We are very lucky because there is a club that plays here on a Monday night ... the way the ceiling and that's fallen through it could've injured a lot of people."

New Plymouth resident Daisy Symes rushed to make sure her nephew was safe after her house lost its roof.

"I saw the roof lift and there's a giant hole in our lounge so I was watching the tornado pass over."

She said she would not be able to stay there for the night.

Former sailor Bob Coster, 77, lives close to the corner of Belt Road and St Aubyn Street and said the tornado sounded like naval guns firing.

"I was sitting just about to have my tea when it went bang ... It sounded like one of our guns going off in the ship [in the navy], exactly what it was like - bang."

Mr Coster said it was a miracle no one was hurt.

Ian McMillan was on his way home when he got a call from his partner.

"She said the roof's leaking and she couldn't say that there isn't a roof ... half the roof is gone - so it's just got blown over, it's over next-door on a heap of cars."

Thomas Watt was in his home on Morley Street when he heard the tornado rip through.

"I was sitting inside and you could see something coming. The trees, the leaves were swirling and twirling and I just heard this big rumble and tried to find cover and then I just heard this big bang and it was gone."

A tornado also hit at Ōhope in the Bay of Plenty, with damage to the Surf & Sand venue described as 'substantial', although nobody was hurt.

Ōhope Top 10 Holiday Park manager Mark Inman said there was lots of clean up underway but appreciated the support of about 50 volunteers who have been helping.

"We've got community help arrived and underway in true Ōhope fashion," Mr Inman said.

"Our conference centre has been wiped out. It got blown to pieces. The tornado went straight through the middle of it.

"There's certainly collateral damage in the sense of flying debris ... and we've got building materials just scattered across properties 500 metres."

He said the business was still open and hoping to fufilling its summer wedding and conference commitments.

'We've suffered a fair amount of damage' - Mark Inman duration 2:17
from Morning Report

Click a link to play audio (or right-click to download) in either
MP3 format or in OGG format.

Anne Collins said she was filming the ordeal but stopped when it got closer and looked like it might hit her place.

"We were looking out the window and we saw this big water sprout out in the ocean and it was moving pretty fast," Ms Collins said.

"We've been whacked by a tornado in 2016 so I was terrified that it was going to come and get us again.

"So we watched it coming across the water, and then when it hit land there was all sorts of stuff thrown up in the air."

More thunderstorms are forecast for New Plymouth today as residents begin the clean-up from yesterday's tornado.


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