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Wild weather kills 24 in South China

By Li Wenfang in Guangzhou, Sun Li in Fuzhou and He Dan in Beijin | China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-22 01:44

Tornado, hail, thunderstorms cause more than $210m in economic losses

At least 24 people have died and four are missing after extreme weather hit five provinces in South China this week, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said on Thursday.

Starting on Tuesday, tornados, rain and strong winds swept Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong and Guizhou provinces, and about 215,000 people evacuated for their safety, according to a notice released on the ministry's website.

By 12 am on Thursday, 1.53 million people had been affected by the disastrous weather conditions.

Wild weather kills 24 in South China

The scattered debris of a factory shows the severity of a storm that swept through Shatian township in Dongguan, Guangdong province, on Wednesday. Provided to China Daily

More than 2,000 residential buildings collapsed, and 248,000 houses were damaged. About 92,900 hectares of crops were damaged, and the crops on 16,400 hectares were destroyed, it said.

The economic loss is estimated at 1.31 billion yuan ($210 million).

A super tornado, accompanied by thunderstorms and hailstones, hit several townships and subdistricts in Dongguan, Guangdong, on Wednesday afternoon, killing nine people by 10 am on Thursday.

The storm also left 272 people injured, 11 of them seriously, said Deng Haoquan, secretary-general of the city government at a news conference on Thursday.

Force 8 winds swept townships, and one gust in Dalingshan township measured force 14, 49.1 meters per second.

Buildings struggled to withstand the force of the tornado, the strongest ever recorded in the city, Deng said.

Many houses, stores and factories collapsed or were damaged in Dongguan, and cars and trucks were overturned.

Five students at the Oriental Pearl School in Shatian township were injured by broken glass. The roofs of several buildings in the school were blown apart, and trees and electricity poles uprooted, cutting off the power supply.

More than 4,000 students will stay at home until the repairs are finished, said Su Chao, executive vice-president of the school.

A refrigerator blown from a store narrowly missed a car in Shatian, Information Times reported.

"I was driving the car when a strong wind suddenly started blowing. Tree branches and metal plates were flying around. Then I saw a big block moving toward my car. I stopped the car, opened the window and realized it was a refrigerator," the driver was quoted as saying.

The storm swept across the city in just one hour, starting from 3:48 pm, creating difficulties for response and rescue teams, Deng said.

Provincial, city and township officials went to the storm-hit areas in Dongguan to lead the disaster relief work.

Storms disrupted power supply in some parts of Dongguan, as well as some areas in the cities of Zhongshan and Shaoguan in Guangdong.

Deng Haiguang, deputy governor of Guangdong province, arrived in Dongguan to conduct disaster relief work.

Guangdong has entered a season of frequent strong convective weather, with thunderstorms, tornados, hail, heavy rainfall and gusts of wind, the provincial emergency management office warned.

Hailstorms and heavy rains in the north of Fujian province on Wednesday led to a shipwreck that killed at least 11 people, local authorities said on Thursday.

On Wednesday morning, the hail, which fell for about 15 minutes, pummeled several counties in the cities of Sanming and Nanping, destroying crops, houses and livestock.

The violent weather capsized a ferry heading to a dock in Nanping's Xiadao township, leaving 11 people dead and four missing, according to the publicity department of Nanping.

"The hail fell from the sky so suddenly, and dark clouds made the day feel like the night," said a villager surnamed Xiao.

"The wooden boat was reaching the dock, and strong winds pulled it miles away before turning it capsized," Xiao said.

Fujian provincial government has initiated an emergency response, and more than 38 vessels and 300 personnel have been involved in the search and rescue work.

Nanping's publicity department said the ferryboat is a main means of transportation for local residents and most of the passengers were villagers.

Rescue operations are still under way, and the number and identity of missing passengers is being investigated.

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