A tornado has cut a path of devastation through Auckland this afternoon, killing one person and injuring more than twenty.

Witnesses reported cars with people inside being tossed across carparks when the tornado ripped through the suburb of Albany like a freight train about 3pm.

It was earlier reported that two had died, but it was later said there had been confusion in the immediate chaos.

© stuff.co.nzThe tornado hits the shopping centre.
Prime Minister John Key had made a statement, based on advise from police, announcing two people had died as a result of the tornado. But police and ambulance said they had revised that and were now confirming just one fatality. St John Ambulance regional operations manager Murray Holt said the only fatality was a middle aged man who died in an ambulance on the way to hospital.

Police say the tornado, with winds averaging 200km/h, ripped the roof off the Albany Megacentre shopping mall in North Shore City about 3pm (1pm AEST).

According to reports, the "mass of black clouds" tossed aside cars in its path and sent shoppers running.

© Rob CrawfordThe aftermath in Auckland after the damaging tornado struck.
There are varying reports of how many have been injured.

North Shore Hospital spokesman Paul Patton said 20 injured were due to arrive at the hospital with another two being sent to Auckland Hospital.

A police spokesman said emergency services were fielding calls of reports of damage to homes and cars.

The spokesman said it was too early to say how many people had been hurt, but there were calls reporting "numerous" injured people.

Martin Sibrits, of Rebel Sports, said the tornado was huge.

"It was simply unbelievable, it was huge. I could set pieces of iron flying through the air, 100 metres up," he said.

From his position it looked as if the Placemakers hardware store had taken the biggest hit. "That place is looking like a bomb site."

He could see injured people getting help. Many of the cars in the parking lot had been damaged.

Ross Sims, of Mainline Music, said the tornado sounded like a jet engine.

"I thought, 'geez that plane is low' but when I looked outside it was this giant big black cloud," he said.

He could see large bits of iron "flying into the air" as the tornado hit the mall.

Annette Beard, from the Northern Football Federation at North Harbour Stadium in Albany, was about to leave the office when the tornado stuck.

"I saw it for a few seconds, it takes a little bit to register what it was," Mrs Beard says

"It is a bit more scary than I need."

Staff were told to head to the basment of the stadium if the need arose.

"It looked like it was heading west, but who knows with these things."

Witness Gareth Stones said: "It was right in front of us when we were driving out of the Albany car park, over Pak 'n' Save".

One man, who flew into Auckland from Melbourne this morning, told Fairfax's 3AW radio the rain was so heavy "you can barely drive a car".

The man said he was indoors when the tornado struck. It sounded like several semi-trailers roaring past his office.

"It's absolutely pelting down rain," he said. "It's as black as the ace of spades."

He said the Auckland Harbour Bridge had been closed and traffic reduced on the Auckland motorway with "pandemonium on the roads".