'There was whitebait everywhere': Awakino locals describe 'carnage' of Saturday's tornado

A tornado that ripped through the coastal Taranaki village of Awakino on Saturday has left total "carnage" in its wake. 

The extreme weather destroyed three houses, leaving residents in shock as their homes splintered apart. 

The intensity of the tornado flung a roof into the Awakino River. "Half a roof" remained in the water on Sunday, reminding residents of one twister scene from a famous film.

"Wizard of Oz stuff... there was chaos," local resident Garry Wycherley told Newshub.

Wycherley heard what sounded like a thunderclap before watching the ensuing events unfold in disbelief.

"The water spout was 200 feet high... [it just] whistled down the river, roofing iron was flying around like bits of confetti," he says.

One property at the end of the road has suffered extensive damage.

"People inside the house told me they just dived for cover under the tables," says Wycherley.

Awakino tornado destruction.
A roof was ripped from a building. Photo credit: Supplied.

The elderly couple were too shocked to talk to Newshub on Sunday as they picked through the remnants of their home.

One woman told Newshub she clung to her ranch slider as she thought it might blow out. It smashed seconds after she released her grip, sending shards of glass through the house but leaving her unhurt.

Mark Sheppard can only now see the funny side of the force of nature that sucked whitebait out of the river.

"I heard a tremendous noise like a train coming up the street," he says.

"Next thing, I saw the roof swirl off the house... some bits of corrugated [iron] flew over those hills in the distance. It was amazing, there was whitebait everywhere. They were running around picking them up off the lawn."

Greg Bennett saw the tornado chase his friend as he got in his ute.

"He was driving away and didn't see it coming up behind him. It sucked the windows out of the back of his ute."

Now, everyone in the tight-knit community is mucking in. Last night, those who lost their homes stayed with friends or at a local hotel.

The clean-up will take days, but fortunately no one was hurt.