Thursday, April 18, 2024

Looters chased from tornado-damaged house

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Numerous homes across east Auckland were damaged by high winds that struck at about 9pm on April 9, including Manju Verma’s in Attymon Lane, pictured. Times photos Wayne Martin

A tornado that struck east Auckland on Sunday night left parts of the community looking like a war zone.

Strong winds lifted tiles from roofs, snapped and uprooted trees, flattened timber fences, bent steel garage doors, and tossed around backyard furniture.

But for one impacted resident, the most distressing thing was being awoken to find two suspected looters standing in the kitchen of her damaged home.

The Times visited several streets impacted by the tornado on Monday morning.

Numerous residents were out and about supporting their neighbours and helping to clean up the damage in Attymon Lane, off Wayne Francis Drive, in Dannemora.

Jo Clark was out when the tornado struck but received a phone call from a neighbour advising her to get home.

“It’s pretty bad,” she says of the damage caused to her property.

She says large parts of its roof have “caved in”.

“It’s really the roof damage from the tiles and the wires coming through in the main lounge and the master bedroom, and there’s cracks in the ceiling where the house has moved.

“Civil Defence came at 2.30am and said I can’t stay here and I had to leave.

“They said, ‘if one of the tiles falls through the roof it could kill you’.”

If that wasn’t bad enough, Clark also had to deal with two looters who illegally entered her home.

She says she stayed at her house for a while because she was worried about her cat and she wanted to get an hour’s sleep.

Clark then heard strange noises at about 3.30am. She says she went back to bed but heard them again.

“I came out and there are two guys in my kitchen.

“One had a black hoodie on and the other guy I didn’t really see. It was so quick and there was no lighting.

“They were youngish, maybe late teens. It was so quick and I yelled and swore at them and they just took off.”

Clark says the two males fled on foot across her backyard.

“I tried to get my torch on my cell phone to see where they were going but it was so dark.

“I was yelling loud so the neighbours could hear me. That wasn’t pretty and therefore we get no sleep.”

She becomes emotional recounting having to deal with looters after suffering the shock caused by the tornado.

“It was pretty devastating because you don’t really want to be here now.

“I’m too scared to leave in case they come back because we’ve had lots of strangers coming and going in the street for the last few hours.

“We’ve had drones going since 6am this morning flying over the houses and you don’t know what’s going to happen.

“And because there are so many broken windows they could come back.”

Clark says she didn’t phone the police about the looters because she thought the emergency services would be busy responding to calls.

“We had that many people in the street. I was waiting for tarpaulins to come for the roof and they said they’d run out.

“So they weren’t going to do anything and I thought, ‘what’s the point?’.”

Damage caused to a home in Erne Crescent, Dannemora.

Manju Verma lives across the road from Clark in Attymon Lane.

She and her family were also out when the tornado struck and when they got home at about 9.30pm they were shocked at what they found.

One of two large palm trees in their front yard was uprooted while the other, just metres away, was still standing.

A large number of tiles had been lifted from their roof, their side boundary fence had been flattened, part of the back fence was knocked over and ceiling lights inside the family’s house were pushed in.

Their steel garage door has been twisted and pushed inside the garage, scratching Verma’s Suzuki Swift hatchback.

Strangely, the lemon tree in their backyard was still standing.

“By the time we got home everybody was in the street,” Verma says.

“I saw my tree like that [fallen over] and all my neighbours were here. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness’.

“My son said to me there’s a tornado. He must have said something else too but I didn’t register. It was quite overwhelming. I’ve never experienced a tornado.”

Verma phoned her insurance company and was waiting to hear from an assessor on Monday morning.

“I said to them the major thing is I want somebody to cover the roof so we don’t have leaks in the house, because we can see the sky from certain parts of the house.”

She also wanted her garage door fixed as soon as possible.

Verma says fire fighters inspected her home on Sunday night and suggested her family stayed elsewhere.

She went to her sister’s house for the night but her eldest son stayed behind and slept in the lounge due to their fear of the house being broken into.

“We were wondering whether we should be vacuuming or not but someone said let the assessors come first.

“I’ve been in this house for 23 years and I’ve never claimed insurance, until today.”

Verma says it’s “frightening” to have heard about the two males found inside Clark’s home.

“Rahul [her son] stayed here the whole night. He wouldn’t budge.”

Large trees were uprooted and had their branches snapped and torn off.

A Civil Defence Centre was opened on Sunday night at the Howick Leisure Centre in Pakuranga Road for anyone displaced by the tornado and subsequently closed at 5pm on Monday.

It was visited by just three households, all of whom were seeing information.

Auckland Emergency Management duty group controller Mace Ward says the agency has been supporting impacted communities since the tornado struck.

The most recent efforts focused on surveying the extent of the damage, co-ordinating building assessments and cleaning up.

“While the final number of properties affected … is still being collated, it’s clear much of the damage is concentrated in a narrow strip, running from the Pakuranga Golf Club, southeast to Barry Curtis Park in Flat Bush.

“There are two main areas of damage, a pocket in Golflands and a longer swath from Greenmount Park area to Barry Curtis Park.

“Many property owners and residents will still have a clean-up effort in front of them so we ask people to avoid any unnecessary travel to the area.”

Auckland Council building inspectors had assessed 60 to 70 affected properties as of Monday afternoon.

Ten properties had been yellow-stickered, meaning their occupants can stay in them in but must avoid hazardous areas. No properties had been red-stickered.

Fire and Emergency NZ said no injuries had been reported following the tornado and most of the calls it received from the public related to roofs being lifted or damaged and trees falling onto homes and power lines.

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