Sunday, July 5, 2009

Community rallies to fix tornado damage


A Northland community rallied to limit and repair damage to Kaitaia Hospital and houses when a tornado ripped through the town yesterday afternoon.

The tornado opened roofs, broke windows and brought trees crashing to the ground, damaging about 20 houses, the local hospital, a car and destroying a kindergarten fence in its path.

Homes in Pukepoto Rd and Worth St at the south end of the town appeared worst affected, while Kaitaia Hospital also suffered serious damage with a tree taking out a transformer, damage to the roof of the administration block and a boiler roof blown off.

Local volunteer fire brigade chief Colin Kitchen said residents saw the tornado approaching the south end of the town from the west coast at about 12.40pm.

With a front about 50 metres wide, it entered Pukepoto Rd before going into Worth St, through the grounds of Kaitaia Hospital and on to Eden Terrace. He said it was mainly state houses that were damaged, which have tile roofs.

"About 20 houses have lost tiles, windows were blown in and there were trees down." However, Mr Kitchen praised the Kaitaia community for its efforts with controlling the damage.

"It was great, I can't emphasis how much everyone just rallied around, the Fire Service, police, council staff, Victim Support, contractors who donated salvage, we are a resistant community."

He said the weather was still "a bit hectic" last night, and the fire brigade was called back to one of the damaged houses as water started pouring in, and the hospital fire alarm went off which Mr Kitchen suspected was caused by water getting into the system. Housing NZ spokesperson Nick Maling said contractors and emergency services temporarily fixed the damage yesterday by putting tarpaulins on roofs and boarding up windows.

He said most people opted to stay in their homes last night, despite the damage, with one family going to stay with relatives after their front windows were blown in.

Mr Maling said Housing NZ would begin fixing damaged houses tomorrow, but didn't know how long it would take as the full extent of the damage was still not known.