Some storm victims unprepared for disaster

Some West Aucklanders affected by yesterday's tornado feel they were not prepared enough to deal with the emergency.

Three people were killed and seven were injured when the storm - including tornadoes - hit Auckland yesterday afternoon.

About 250 people were left homeless and thousands of homes were without power after the storm, which is estimated to have caused $11 million worth of damage.

As the clean-up continued today, Wamairie Rd resident Rhys Hogg said his family was "not as prepared as we should have been".

"We're lucky we've got gas cookers. And the water's still on, but if the water was off we'd be in trouble," he said.

The family had been caught without an emergency kit, but that was certainly something they were "going to get".

"It makes you think about, if it was worse, what could've happened."

Just up the street, Kate Dunn had similar concerns.

"[We were] not as prepared as I would have thought. We've got lots of food but it wasn't until later that we got out a gas cooker and one of the attachments was missing that made us aware that we probably need to be a bit more prepared than we were."

Her husband Paul agreed.

"It has taken us by surprise. It has reminded us how important is to be prepared. We certainly weren't as prepared as we should've been for something like this."

Civil Defence recommends every household should have emergency items and a getaway kit prepared in case of an emergency.

Crucial items include food and water for at least three days, a torch and batteries, first aid supplies, a radio and blankets. A full list can be found here.

Names released

Earlier today, police released the names of the three men who died during yesterday's tornado.

Tom Stowers, 42, of Massey; Keith Langford, 60, of Tuakau, and Brendon Johnson, 22, of Massey were killed at a school construction site in Hobsonville. after the tornado ripped through Whenuapai and Hobsonville in yesterday's deadly storm.

The dead men, from Hawkins Construction and subcontractors Vuksich and Borich Civil Engineering, were crushed by a large concrete slab as they took shelter from the tornado.

Three men in their 20s and 30s remained in Auckland Hospital in a stable condition this morning. Four others were taken to North Shore Hospital with minor injuries.

"Did we miss anything?"

Speaking to media after inspecting the damage at Hobsonville today, Prime Minister John Key passed on his condolences to the families of the three men killed.

He said the loss of life could have been far greater, considering the number of people working in the open when the tornado struck.

Mr Key said: "I think we'll take a step back and retrace our steps and ask the obvious questions: What was in place in terms of weather forecasting? Did we miss anything? What does that mean in terms of people on the workplace and the likes? I suspect in the end it will come down to - as it does in America which is much more prone to these - that they're a sort of random act of nature."

Auckland Council programme adviser Jan Ziegler-Peri said 66 people had so far registered with the Massey Lesire Centre recovery centre.

"We've got various services here to assist people. We've got council staff who are civil defence trained, Work and Income (WINZ) are providing emergency benefits, the Salvation Army is giving out food and clothes."

Work and Income was organising for people who had been displaced to stay in motels for up to two nights.

Housing New Zealand was also there to help people who would require long-term accommodation.

Numerous people had taken up the victim support counselling offered by the centre, Ms Ziegler-Peri said.

"This morning has been very, very busy. We've had quite a few distressed people who have been completely displaced, which is very hard for them."

The centre would be open until 5pm today and from 10am to 5pm tomorrow.

Mr Key, whose Helensville electorate covers the affected area, said numerous houses had been left uninhabitable and would be demolished, but some residents would be able to return to their homes.

Many of the damaged houses were owned by the Defence Force and were slated for demolition anyway, he said.

"I'd say the biggest issue for people - other than clearly the families that have suffered the enormous tragedy of losing a loved one - will be about finding alternative accommodation because it's quite clear there will be many families not returning to their homes.''

He said the tornado would prompt the Government to look at how weather forecasting capabilities could be improved.

"As a general rule you think you can pick these things up, clearly that hasn't been the case. I think there were predictions for heavy rain but not necessarily tornadoes so that's something we're going to have to go back and have a look at.''

Mr Key said he'd never seen anything like it in New Zealand before.

"It's far more significant than a very bad storm where you have a few trees down. It's something you might expect to see in the midwest of America, but not in Hobsonville.'

"It's sort of one of those situations where you can't do much other than try and put your arms around those families and offer them a huge amount of sympathy and support," he told TV3's Firstline programme earlier.

He said local government would take charge of the recovery effort.

"It'll largely be local government with people actually looking to their own private insurers but we'll get an assessment of what's taking place, make sure that people's insurance does cover them - I'm pretty sure it will - and take a look at what we can do."

Residents unable to get home

Waitemata Police District Commander Superintendent Bill Searle said Civil Defence was working as quickly as possible to establish which houses were safe.

"In the meantime I ask everyone to be patient," he said.

But residents with properties in the cordoned zone were this morning becoming frustrated and anxious because they were not allowed to get to their homes.

Those who left were not allowed in and those who stayed were not allowed out.

Clark Rd resident Karen Bramley said she had been unable to get home to check on her mother.

"We came yesterday and got some clothes and then went to stay with in-laws but since we've been back this morning they haven't let us in.

"My mother's there. I was worried this morning because she wasn't answering her phone or anything but a cop eventually did go and see her. She's okay."

Another resident, Emma Gill, said she was frustrated but at least it meant no one could break into people's homes.

Resident and former MP Brian Neeson said one resident told him she wasn't allowed to walk 10 metres past the cordon to buy baby food or she wouldn't be allowed back. She handed money to someone on the other side of the cordon who bought it for her.

"The air force and all the civil defence people worked really hard yesterday, really did a marvellous job but the close-up this morning is really causing a huge amount of inconvenience when it could be managed with people going back to their homes under escort. They're all frustrated ... Everyone's stunned like mullets.

"People are concerned about their possessions, property and where they are going to live. They just need a little bit more care."

Electricity workers and other contractors were also standing around at the cordon. Mr Neeson said one worker had told him Vector could have had all the power on by now if they'd been allowed through.

Mr Neeson said he had been in contact with Civil Defence who said they would arrange a controlled entry past the cordon soon.

One resident, who didn't want to be named, said it appeared a "Mexican standoff" was developing between police and Civil Defence.

"Something isn't right," he said. "One wants to be the boss over the other."

Auckland Mayor Len Brown, who also planned to visit the site this morning, told TV3 there would be a "massive" clean-up today.

Fortunately, the infrastructure damage was mostly above ground.

"The tornado's gone in like a washing machine and gone around and around. It'll be all hands to the pump to make sure that the essentials in that area operating and effective and then of course the builders will come in and start doing the reconstruction work around the houses to get the families back in," he said.

Yesterday 18 teams of building inspectors undertook 241 building assessments and Civil Defence said today that while there was a lot of roof damage, it was expected that a relatively small number of buildings would be found to be structurally unsafe.

Two recovery centres were to open this morning at Massey Leisure Centre and Victory Church, managed by Auckland Council Civil Defence staff with personnel from Housing NZ, Salvation Army, Work and Income, Child Youth and Family and Victim Support.

About a dozen people were at the Massey Leisure Centre this morning.

Jodi Rangitawa, whose house was badly damaged in the storm, had just filled out a series of forms and was waiting to be assisted with alternative accommodation.

Some people were being put into motels, others into houses, he said.

A Salvation Army worker asked media to leave while victims were spoken to.

"We've got some very distressed people here," she said.

Whenuapai Air Base refuge centre spokesman Group Captain Kevin McEvoy said about 230 people had been helped yesterday and about 12 civilians from the local area stayed on base overnight.

"They were happy to be safe but obviously some of them have lost their houses and their belongings so there's a range of emotions as you would expect following an incident like this," he told Radio New Zealand.

Vector said crews had managed to restore power to 765 customers, leaving 570 still without power.

Meanwhile, Auckland Airport was operating as normal today and a backlog from cancellations yesterday was being cleared today.

Civil Defence warned that more bad weather was on the way today.

The heavy showers affecting Auckland this morning were expected to increase, with heavy rain, possible hail showers, wind gusts of up to 100km/h and a low risk of thunderstorms.

Read more:

Holiday cancelled as tree crushes boat
Vicious twister turns calm to shrieking mayhem
First shock, then rush to help others
Live blog: Community reels after tornado damage
Photos: Tornado damage
Storm updates: What you need to know

- APNZ

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