Tornado tears through Auckland: two dead

Reuters News
Posted: May 04, 2011 9:48 AM

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - A tornado tore through New Zealand's largest city Auckland on Tuesday, killing two people, sending cars flying through the air and ripping roofs off buildings.

The tornado struck the northern suburb of Albany at about 3.15 p.m. with damage centered on a shopping mall before it moved south, leaving a five-km (three-miles) trail of destruction.

Civil defense officials put the death toll at two, with 14 injured.

"We've got our fingers crossed that injuries are limited and that there are no further fatalities," Auckland Mayor Len Brown told Radio New Zealand.

Tornadoes swept across the southern U.S. states last week, killing more than 350 people and causing as much as $5 billion of damage.

New Zealand experiences about 20 tornadoes a year, but most are relatively small and fatalities rare.

The worst tornado in New Zealand struck the city of Hamilton in 1948, killing three people, injuring 80 and destroying nearly 200 buildings. In 2004, a tornado struck a small town in the coastal Taranaki region on the North Island, killing two people.

(Reporting by Adrian Bathgate; Editing by Ron Popeski)