Bhanu Bhatnagar reports on the tornado causing mass damage in Auckland.

A tornado ripped through New Zealand’s largest city of Auckland on Tuesday afternoon. Two people were reportedly killed and more than twenty people were injured, three of them critically.

The tornado struck the suburb of Albany, to the north of central Auckland at around 1500 local time (0300GMT). It then moved south across neighbouring Birkenhead, leaving a 5km trail of destruction in its wake.

The swirling dark grey column of air and cloud tore through the North Shore City with winds in excess of 200km/h.  In the process, the roof of the Albany Megacentre shopping mall was ripped off. Cars were tossed aside and trees were also flattened in the process.

As the pandemonium set in, the Auckland Harbour Bridge was closed, and traffic along the Auckland motorway was restricted for a time.

The New Zealand Metservice said that the tornado hit without warning with the main core of the storm stretching over 10m wide. This is obviously not big in comparison to the storms that we see over the plains of North America, but it is no less noteworthy in this part of the world.

Such twisters are relatively rare in New Zealand but not unheard of, particularly on the North Island. New Zealand experiences about 20 tornadoes in the average year and according to the Ministry of Civil Defense and Emergency Management, Auckland might see one or two of those.

Fatalities are certainly rare. The worst tornado in the country’s history struck the city of Hamilton in 1948 killing 3 people, injuring 80 and destroying nearly 200 buildings.

Source: Al Jazeera