Rare tornado kills 3 in New Zealand

In this photo made with a mobile phone, a tree is damaged on a property in Auckland, New Zealand, following a tornado Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. AP Photo/New Zealand Herald

WELLINGTON, New Zealand A rare tornado swept through neighborhoods around New Zealand's largest city Thursday, killing three people and forcing 250 more to evacuate their homes.

The small tornado hit Hobsonville and Whenuapai, western suburbs of Auckland, during a midday storm that uprooted trees, damaged buildings and caused flooding that closed roads.

Authorities said that as well as those who died, seven people suffering a range of injuries were admitted to hospitals.

Auckland Council spokesman Glyn Walters said the storm made about 150 homes uninhabitable. He said some of those homes had roofs torn off or were severely damaged while others had more minor damage or had lost power. He said 250 residents were taken to an air force base at Whenuapai, where council staff and welfare workers were assisting them.

The worst weather appeared to have passed by midafternoon, Walters said. "It's clearing up slightly but people need to be careful out there," he said.

Auckland Fire Service Area Commander Larry Cocker told The Associated Press that three people had died in the storm.

Walters said one person was killed when hit by a tree and that some others who were killed or injured were workers who were building a school.

Several New Zealand media outlets reported that two of those who died were in an accident involving a slab of concrete.

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