Asbestos clean-up continues after tornado rips through Christchurch

Contractors are continuing to clean up asbestos debris covering Brisbane Street near central Christchurch after a tornado ripped through.

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The weather phenomenon has also caused property damage. Source: 1 NEWS

Two people were hurt after the powerful tornado hit Christchurch about 1.30pm, lifting roofs and smashing windows.

Asbestos removal workers were at DJ Auto in Sydenham this morning, where the contaminated debris blew into the air due to the tornado.

Contractors reopened Wordsworth Street to traffic after it was closed as part of the asbestos cordon.

Sydenham, a mainly industrial suburb just south of the Christchurch CBD, appeared to be the hardest hit.

Despite the storm lasting only a short period of time, SaveMart on Battersea Street lost part of its roofing, with two injuries being reported from the store.

Fire and Emergency said air conditioning units had also fallen off as a result of the damage.

In Richmond, a fruit and vegetable truck was blownabout 20 metres away as a result of the tornado.

Thankfully for Christchurch residents, MetService has forecast the weather to be significantly better today, with high cloud, moderate northerlies and a few spots of rain.

'Swathe of damage'

Yesterday, an eyewitness told RNZ that she saw large debris swirling around the sky like paper.

Victoria Harwood was in a central city apartment when she saw the tornado.

Having never seen a tornado before, the experience was frightening, she said.

"We saw these bits of debris sitting in the sky and swirling around. And from where we could see, it looked like it was paper, but as it got closer we realised it was bits of gib board, which I've now realised are probably off the SaveMart on Battersea St."

Speaking from outside the SaveMart store, Fire and Emergency assistant area commander Mike Bowden said a number of properties had lost roofing.

"There's been a swathe of damage through Christchurch for this very short and sharp burst of weather that we've had, so it comes really from this side of town right through to New Brighton, we understand there are properties that have lost roofing and there's been some other damage around the city as well."

Further east in Richmond, Alison Kendall said the fruit and vegetable stand - which is a Toyota truck - had lost all of its boxes and fruit, which were flying everywhere.

Mrs Kendall said she had earlier tripped over when she ran to close a back door when it started hailing.

"And then windows were smashing and there was this bloody vortex thing going on in the back yard and everything's flying, and the fruit and vege man's truck just zoomed across the yard about 20 metres."

Mrs Kendall said she had been forced to close her shop, in order to clean up the glass from the broken window.

Raeonie Ellery was driving near Hornby when black clouds blocked out the Port Hills.

She said the hail was so intense it was like a bucket of stones being tipped over the car, and almost impossible to see.

"And as we were driving along it actually felt like an eclipse, this blackness came over us."