Three dead as tornado strikes New Zealand city

The BBC's David Eades says trees were felled and roofs ripped from homes

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Three people have been killed as a rare tornado ripped through western suburbs of the New Zealand city of Auckland.

The tornado struck Hobsonville and Whenuapai on Thursday afternoon, uprooting trees and taking roofs off houses.

One resident described the storm as "five minutes of utter devastation".

Two of those who died were believed to be working on the construction of a school and another was hit by a tree, the Civil Defence office said.

Another seven people were taken to hospital, said the office in a statement, adding that 150 homes had been badly damaged.

"About 150 homes have been displaced at Whenuapai and many have been deemed uninhabitable or are without power," it said.

Some 250 residents were being taken care of at an air force base, it said.

The force of the tornado was captured by a resident filming from her window

A number of planned flights were delayed by the storm, which also caused power outages in several suburbs. Fallen trees and debris blocked some roads.

"This must have been an extremely frightening situation for many people in the local community," Prime Minister John Key said in a statement.

"I'd like to thank the emergency services staff, who are responding to the situation. It's critical they are able to focus on the response."

The tornado was accompanied by thunderstorms and heavy rain. As of 16:30 local time (03:30GMT) the last active thunderstorm had moved south-east and was expected to dissipate, said New Zealand's meteorological office.

Auckland was last hit by a tornado in May 2011, when one person died.

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