South Auckland tornado: Many in limbo as homes unsafe

From Checkpoint, 5:21 pm on 21 June 2021

South Aucklanders whose homes have been red stickered after Saturday's freak tornado are in limbo, saying they have no idea where they will be living long term.

Jass Aulakh is effectively homeless, a red sticker blocking him from entering his wrecked Papatoetoe flat.

"Entry prohibited," it screams, and you can see why - the roof has crumbled away and bricks have been sucked from its walls, one onto his flatmate's front windscreen.

"We can't sleep inside because it will suddenly fall down at any time," he said.

Jass and five mates used to live in this house but have been forced to crash on friends' floors and couches.

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The flat Jass Aulakh shared with five others. Photo: RNZ

He hopes they will be given temporary accommodation.

"It is very difficult, you know, we can't live in our friend's [house] for a long time" he told Checkpoint.

Jass lives on Hayward Rd in Papatoetoe. The thoroughfare is devastated, its curb littered with twisted steel roof tiles, bricks, and enormous branches.

Peter Seth lives just down the road from Jass and his mates. 

He's in limbo, waiting to hear from an insurance assessor on whether his property, like so many on this Papatoetoe road, is also a write off.

"I don't know. I mean, it'll be up to them to tell me what's worthwhile doing. But I've got broken glass, we've got broken cladding," he said.

Mud and grass are splattered through his bedroom's interior.

"On my bed there's bits of broken tile, on the ground here there's bits of broken fence paling … so I would at least have been sprayed with broken glass," he said.

Instead, he ducked for cover under his bed as the colossal tornado twisted down the street, getting louder and louder as it bore down on his tiny, one-bedroom house.

"[It was] louder than anything," Seth said.

"That description of a freight train coming is probably as good as it's going to get."

Like most on the road, power is still out at his house. He's been staying with his ex-wife and son in the meantime.

"Next door here they've been staying inside their house with no power," Seth said.

"They've got a tarp over a corner of the roof, but they've been staying."

Just across the road, a giant tree has been uprooted and set down in Prasant and Chhiya Patel's yard.

They have got off relatively unscathed compared to some, with Chhiya choking up at the sight of her neighbours' devastated homes.

"My home is alright, you know, I am also OK," she said.

"But I've seen those people. It's very hard for them."

Drive south out of Hayward Road and the picture is just as shocking.

On Fitzroy Street, many houses are without a roof and chimneys have flown into car windscreens.

Across the road, a block of flats has had its facade totally ripped off, while the roof is completely gone.

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The wrecked flats. Photo: RNZ

The government has pledged $100,000 to Auckland Council's Mayoral Relief Fund in response to the devastation.  

Manukau Ward councillor Efeso Collins told Checkpoint that is key because many in his community are not insured to cope with natural disasters.

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Efeso Collins Photo: RNZ

"I had a number of families come up to me, the first thing they admitted was, 'Efeso, we don't have any insurance, what are we going to do?'" he said.

Collins described the scene that greeted him on Saturday morning as like something out of a film.

"I found some of those scenes harrowing, to be honest," he said.

"I spoke to a Tongan dad, who said that in the middle of it his eight-year-old son came out to him and said, 'Dad, are we going to die'?

"I think that summed it up for me."

It is vital Auckland Council and the government get their response right, he said, saying his constituents are anxious - anxious about where they're going to sleep, anxious about when they might be able to return home.