21 Jun 2021

Auckland tornado: Family mourns husband and father killed at freight site

12:20 pm on 21 June 2021

An Auckland family is mourning the loss of their father and husband after he was killed in the devastating tornado that hit South Auckland on Saturday.

Janesh Prasad leaves behind his young family, wife Mala and his daughter Ashley aged 13 and Jesh aged 10.

Janesh Prasad leaves behind his young family, wife Mala and his daughter Ashley aged 13 and Jesh aged 10. Photo: Givealittle

Janesh Prasad was working at the Ports of Auckland freight hub on Wiri Station Road when the tornado swept him up and he struck a container.

Prasad, a mechanic for Stellar Machinery, was carrying out repairs at the South Auckland freight hub when the tornado hit. He leaves a wife and two children aged 13 and 10.

Family friend Reg Prasad described him as a much-loved family man.

"It's an absolutely terrible shock to his family and his wife is absolutely shattered," Reg Prasad said.

"Wonderful person - he's got two beautiful kids, young kids growing up.

"He's just one of these people who just helps out other people in this world, and a wonderful husband to Mala.

"The daughter is obviously very distressed. The younger son, it hasn't sunk in quite yet."

Reg Prasad started a Givealittle page to support the family which by Monday morning had raised $36,000.

"We are just so grateful for all New Zealanders to support this family," he said.

"We've had people bringing food, supporting, strangers coming up to the houses and helping out, got a huge network of support coming in at the moment."

A blessing took place at the site on Sunday morning.

Ports of Auckland spokesperson Matt Ball said it was a massive shock to everyone involved.

Empty containers weighing up to five tonnes were "thrown about in the air like matchboxes".

"Dozens, if not hundreds, of containers scattered around the place."

"I can't imagine how frightening that must have been - for people all over South Auckland - in a wind like this, just terrible."

"In something like 20 to 30 seconds just threw containers all over the place, lifted up heavy machinery.

Ports of Auckland shipping container yard, the South Auckland Freight Hub on Monday 21 June 2021. Mechanic Janesh Prasad was killed in a tornado that struck the yard on Saturday morning.

The Ports of Auckland shipping container yard in South Auckland on Monday. Photo: RNZ / Kate Gregan

He said the sudden, violent tornado took about 20 seconds to get from one end of the site to another, a distance of about 1km.

MetService forecaster Heath Gullery says the tornado had wind gusts of up to 200 km/hr and was stronger than the tornados that hit New Zealand.

Ball said it would take staff working with specialist contractors at least a week to clear up the site.

"The extent of the damage is pretty massive - by some estimates maybe 400 containers damaged."

Imported goods and products waiting to be exported were stored at the 15ha site and there may be some delays in shipping goods round the country, he said.

Downed powerlines and damaged roofs after yesterday's tornado.

Downed power lines and damaged roofs after the tornado in Papatoetoe. Photo: Ben Wilson

An information hub was set up at a Papatoetoe leisure centre yesterday offering affected residents support and advice.

A representative of the Insurance Council had been there helping with people's claims.

The government has also contributed $100,000 to help those affected.

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