Some sobbed, others clung to trees in tornado

By Nicholas Jones

Yonathan and Jin Kim outside their home at Roseberry Avenue in Birkenhead. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Yonathan and Jin Kim outside their home at Roseberry Avenue in Birkenhead. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Residents at the bottom of Roseberry Ave were outnumbered yesterday by insurance assessors, arborists, media, rubberneckers, and politicians.

The Birkenhead street was one of the hardest hit by Tuesday's tornado, with more than 20 houses damaged.

And while there were stop-and-stare exceptions, most of the serious damage was towards the bottom of the street and on the Western side.

Jin Kim was outside when the winds picked up, and told the Herald she fell to the ground and wrapped her arms around a tree trunk.

When that proved too flimsy, she moved to a bigger tree to wait the storm out.

A large tree on the side of her and husband Yonathan's property fell in the tornado and completely crushed a side deck - their mud-splattered front door now leads nowhere.

Further up the road at number 64, Kuini Te Amo fought back tears as she looked at the ruins of her 2.5-metre Kowhai tree.

"Five or [more] wood pigeons would sit in there, they were so fat and would get drunk and fly into our window ... still, we're ok and that's what matters."

Two doors away, Lucy Arona and her family were inspecting their backyard, which was strewn with broken pieces of fence, toys and branches.

Mrs Arona said she thought the roof was going to come off in the tornado, so lay over her sleeping 2-year-old son.

Michael Thompson's 8-year-old daughter had just returned from school and was changing her wet clothes when an enormous Himalayan elm crashed on to the roof above her.

"She was terrified. But she's good now - she took her bag of debris to Show and Tell at school today."

Despite the fire service initially ruling the house out of bounds, Mr Thompson's family were allowed back yesterday because their 6-month-old daughter needs 24-hour care.

The storm also cleared a stand of 7-metre tall tea trees at the back of the property - not necessarily a bad thing: "West-facing we get the afternoon sun now, which is brilliant."

Shane Manoa invited the Herald inside his home at the foot of the street to escape the noise of at least three arborist crews outside.

Mr Manoa said after the tornado he rushed down to the street and, with the help of two other men, pulled a 5-year-old boy and his babysitter from the branches of a toppled tree.

"The boy was just sobbing ... they weren't very heavy branches, which was probably the saving grace."

He said it was hard to believe there hadn't been other injuries.

"We get a lot of kids coming through here from the primary school. But maybe because of the rain parents were a bit longer to bring kids home."

Also fortunate was Mr Manoa's Chihuahua-Pekingese dog, who normally would have been outside on the deck at the time of the tornado. Chu Chu was instead put inside because of the rain, he said.

"Otherwise she would have been up and away."

- NZ Herald

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