China weather: Tornado and hail kill scores in Jiangsu

media captionInside a tornado damaged home

A tornado and hailstorm have killed at least 98 people and injured nearly 800 in the east Chinese province of Jiangsu, according to state media.

Accompanied by torrential rain, the tornado struck the outskirts of the city of Yancheng on Thursday afternoon.

Counties on the city's outskirts saw winds of up to 125km/h (78 mph).

The search for survivors in debris has now been completed with a clean-up under way, the head of the provincial fire corps told state media.

image copyrightAFP
image captionThe winds were powerful enough to pick up vehicles

President Xi Jinping had ordered "all-out rescue efforts" after what the Xinhua news agency said was one of the worst disasters ever to hit Jiangsu.

It was also the worst tornado to hit China in half a century, it said.

At the scene: Robin Brant in Xintu village, near Yancheng

The damage from the tornado has been significant. There were buckled pylons and cables coiled up by the side of the road on the way to Xintu village.

A woman in her 60s said she'd never seen anything like it; roofs blown off, walls collapsed, cars submerged in canals, straw stuck in broken windows where the immense winds had blown it.

Families tried to gather what belongings they could in piles around them.

At one end of the village, a couple of men were guiding a big sow, and most of her piglets, out of a very messy courtyard. They were sleeping inside a pen when half the roof fell down.

image captionSome of the piglets that survived

At the other end of the row of single-storey houses a family was sifting through the rubble of their almost vanished home, and mourning the death of their five-year-old boy. He was inside with his grandmother when the tornado hit.

The boy's uncle tearfully told me the boy had been like a son to him.

On Friday, rescuers were carrying injured villagers into ambulances and delivering food and water to others, said Xinhua.

Heavy rain and the possibility of more hailstorms and tornadoes had further complicated rescue efforts.

More than 1,300 police officers had been mobilised to help, while tent and other emergency supplies were being sent from Beijing.

'The end of the world'

image copyrightAFP
image captionWhole villages were levelled and trees felled after winds of up to 125 km/h (77 miles) struck Jiangsu's Yancheng city
image copyrightAFP
image captionHeavy rains and the possibility of further hailstorms and tornadoes have complicated rescue efforts

"It was like the end of the world," local resident Xie Litian told Xinhua.

"I heard the gales and ran upstairs to shut the windows. I had hardly reached the top of the stairs when I heard a boom and saw the entire wall with the windows on it torn away."

image copyrightAP
image captionHouses were flattened by the powerful storms, leaving many local residents homeless
image copyrightReuters
media captionThe eastern province of Jiangsu has been hit by a tornado which killed at least 98 people. The storm also brought hail and flooding as Jay Wynne reports.

Many parts of China have been hit by torrential rains this week.

Floods in the south killed 22 people earlier this week and displaced nearly 200,000, state media said.

media captionMeteorologist Matt Taylor explains what El Nino is

The southern part of China is hit every year during the monsoon season, which runs from May to July.

But this year's rainy season has been particularly wet, with water levels in some major rivers exceeding those of 1998, when disastrous floods affected 180 million people, according to state media.

Direct economic losses from the floods are estimated to be 2.7bn yuan ($410m).

Vice-Premier Wang Yang said China faced volatile weather conditions as a result of the influence of El Nino on weather patterns.

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