Videos uploaded to social media and across the news have shown the moment a tornado took the roof off a Christchurch building, picking up sheets of roofing and releasing asbestos-containing contaminants into the air.
Senior fire and rescue workers have advised people not to touch any of the debris, and to leave the clean up to professionals.
The tornado hit Christchurch around 2pm on Monday, taking the roof off two buildings and blowing contaminated debris across the surrounding area.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand assistant area commander Mike Bowden warned people should not pick up any debris. “[We have] a swathe of damage through Christchurch from this very short and sharp burst of weather,” Bowden said.
While Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey explained the risk was minimal, there was still some concern about its presence.
“There’s always a concern when you’ve got asbestos blowing around, but I’m sure the fire service has the matter in hand and they will clean it up appropriately.”
Emergency services were attending the scene of the asbestos roof damage and wore protective equipment for the cleanup.