A severe thunderstorm has ripped across the South Island of New Zealand.

It formed just off the coast of Timaru and made its way northwards, churning over Christchurch shortly after 4 GMT (5pm local time) on Sunday.

Lightning sparked fires as large hail stones pounded the city.

At least two tornadoes were spotted. One uprooted over 20 trees, the other hit the town of Amberley, 50km to the north of Christchurch.

A handful of homes were badly damaged. One had its roof completely ripped off, and landed on the other side of the road.

Tornadoes are a relatively rare event in New Zealand. On average only about 10 tornadoes are reported in the country each year, and generally they aren’t as destructive as those which occur over the plains of the USA.

However, even small-scale tornadoes can cause major damage and injury. In December 2012, three people were killed when a tornado slammed into Auckland.

This latest bout of severe weather comes after a very hot week, when temperatures soared over 30C for many parts of the country. Temperatures in Christchurch reached 33.3C on Tuesday.

The weather has now calmed down over New Zealand. An area of high pressure is building across the country, which should keep the weather mostly settled, but not as hot as last week.

Source: Al Jazeera