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Storm leaves lasting impact

By Meghan Horihan | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-23 08:39

As I headed to Yancheng, in the eastern province of Jiangsu, to report on the first anniversary of a tornado that changed thousands of villagers' lives, I reviewed the facts.

I knew the death toll had reached 99, and I had read that thousands of locals lost their homes, more than 850 were injured and many others lost their jobs.

I realized these were devastating blows to the community's foundations, but I didn't quite grasp the full depth of the damage the tornado left in its wake.

Traveling around different villages in Yancheng, I saw the rubble of a few homes left untouched after the twister. I was told that many others had been rebuilt by the residents without the help of contractors.

Being from the Midwest of the United States, I have seen the damage tornadoes can do. An average of 51 tornadoes occur in Iowa, the state I call home, every year, with the US bracing for 1,253 a year on average, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Jiangsu attracts tornadoes as well, due to its location in a low-lying plain where subtropical and warm temperate zones meet, causing severe weather patterns. Along with Guangdong province, Jiangsu is one of the places in China most frequently hit by convection storms.

The physical damage has been easier to fix than the emotional damage, especially for the children.

When I spoke with Li Yuhong, head of the Nanwan Kindergarten in Shuangqiao village, she talked about how the tornado moved through the area during class time, and the damage it caused. Luckily, the children sustained only minor injuries. The students seemed cheerful the day I visited, but Li said some are now scared to go to school, or don't talk much.

This especially struck me. Some children associated the fear with their school, a place where they should be learning and having fun. In school, I grew up practicing what to do in the event of a tornado-find a room with no windows and hide under a desk or sturdy object. I never had to use those procedures, and I definitely wasn't scared to go to class.

On my visit to Yancheng, I met many people who had lost their homes and family members. Such a tragedy would leave anyone devastated, and I was touched to see the locals are moving forward as they build a better tomorrow.

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