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West Coast twister ‘went straight over us’

Marcia Pera isn’t able to talk to media for long — her phone charger is missing, as are her windows, chimney and roof. 

Ms Pera’s Coakley Street house in Greymouth is one of three made uninhabitable by a tornado which tore through the suburb of Blaketown on Saturday night. 

Her dog has been recovered from the rubble and is sheltering at a friend’s house. Her baby is at a friend’s too, while her four year old daughter stays with her mummy at another friend’s house. 

“She’s okay, except she wants to go home and can’t.”

It all began not long after Ms Pera got home from work at the Challenge petrol station on Saturday night. 

“It was like listening to jets start up at the airport, just real loud noise. You can’t really hear anything, you had to scream to be heard.” 

“It went straight over us,” said Ms Pera, 39. “It flattened the garage and made a big tree fall into our home, smashing the sliding door and taking out half the roof.” 

She said as the twister roared over them she screamed to her family to run into the hallway. 

As the twister funnelled over the family home she heard building material tearing as the house was ripped apart.

It was over within minutes, Ms Pera said. She experienced her previous tornado on her birthday nine years ago, when her home was again left uninhabitable. That one tore roofs off buildings. Saturday’s tornado ripped out her chimney and roof, saturating the carpet. The Grey District Council has declared her house uninhabitable.

Ms Pera said she probably only has contents insurance. “I did apply for house insurance but I don’t think I got it because the house is older than 100 years or something. 

“We had to stay away from our house last night. They had to disconnect the garage door — it was rolled up like a tin can.”

Ms Pera said she phoned friends who spent today retrieving timber from the rubble to secure the roof while the chimney was removed.

No one was hurt in the twister, but 10 properties were damaged, with homes losing roofs and windows, and buildings being damaged.

Chief Officer for the Greymouth Volunteer Fire Brigade Lee Swinburn said four brigades were sent out last night, boarding up houses to keep them weathertight.

Residents from the uninhabitable homes were now staying with relatives, Mr Swinburn said. “We’ve assisted them with moving their furniture and sealing their homes up from the weather.”

Mr Swinburn said in the aftermath of the tornado residents worked at tidying their own sections today, but a lot of the clean-up had been carried out last night.

Greymouth Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said everything was under control, and their small community was now sticking together.

The first priority was to make sure homes that were affected by the tornado were protected from ongoing rain, he said.

“We’ve spent the day helping people, putting tarpaulins on roofs.”

One of the homes which was damaged was unfortunately un-insured, said Mr Kokshoorn. 

Marcia Pera, meanwhile, said she was “Sorting out my life” and may take time off work.

“I went in this morning but I had to get somebody else to work for me. I had to be at my house helping everybody.”

“I have to sort my house out as best we can before the weather comes back. I didn’t sleep last night.” 

– NZ Herald/APNZ

– Photo: Greymouth Star


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