People in Hokitika are reporting significant damage to buildings after a tornado swept through the town earlier this afternoon.
The twister touched down about 12.30, lifting roofs, sending branches flying down the streets and toppling power poles.
Resident Georgia McMeeking was leaving a restaurant when it happened.
“As soon as we walked out a huge gust of wind came. We were already walking quickly to the car anyway to try and avoid it but then I just saw this spiral effect from behind a building and then I saw some roofs get lifted off and we quickly got in the car.”
She says she heard what sounded like a plane engine accelerating and saw branches being blown down the street.
“At the moment I’m standing opposite the jade factory, on the main road in Hokitika, and parts of the roofs have come off, power poles and road signs have been completely flattened. Lots of branches all over and emergency services have just arrived.”
Brad Richards says he was standing outside as the wind started to get stronger.
“Just out of nowhere this little tornado ripped through. I just saw some wood flying where I was standing and started to think what was going on and heard the little whistle that went with it and then started running as saw more debris flying through the air.”
A number of buildings have had their roofs torn off, including the Railway Hotel.
Police say they are not aware of any injuries so far.
WeatherWatch and NewstalkZB