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Hailstones 'as big as eggs' kill 18
By Di Fang (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-11 06:10

A hailstorm in Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality has left 18 dead, one person missing and 25 injured, the People's Daily reported yesterday.

The biggest hailstorm, which fell in Chongqing, reached 13 centimetres in diameter, according to local reports.

Chongqing's eight districts also experienced gales and 140 millimetres of rainfall in last Friday's storm.

According to the municipal Office of Disaster and Social Relief, about 458,000 residents in 80 counties and towns in Chongqing were hit by bad weather, leaving five dead and 25 injured.

It is estimated that 140 million yuan (US$17 million) of damage was caused.

Qianjiang District in Chongqing was the worst affected, with hailstones destroying more than 27,800 houses and local crops. In this district alone, there was damage worth 35 million yuan (US$4.2 million).

Many cities in Sichuan were also affected by strong winds and heavy rainfall. Some cities, such as Leshan, Dazhou and Yibin, were also hit by hailstorms.

Thirteen people died in the province.

Ye Sheng, deputy director of Gaoxian County's Party committee in Yibin, said he witnessed a hailstorm that lasted for about one-and-a-half hours on Friday.

He said some hailstones were as big as eggs, and even small ones were the size of peas. "Many houses were pierced by the hail. It is the most serious hailstorm for 20 years in the county," he was quoted by People's Daily as saying.

A large band of rising warm air resulted in the wind, rain and hail, the Provincial Office of Disaster and Social Relief said.

Measures have been taken to counter the hailstorm, including cloud seeding. In Chongqing alone, some 2,100 rounds have been launched to force hail to change into rain.

Sichuan Province has set up a special disaster and social relief group to guide the work, comfort affected residents, help them reconstruct their homes to get their lives back to normal.

Areas in Hubei Province adjoining Sichuan also experienced similar weather, injuring 15 people.

Last week, many regions in China were hit by sudden changes of weather.

Areas in North China and Northwest China experienced sudden drops in temperature.

In Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the temperature slumped to 1 C below zero on Thursday from 26 C above the day before.

And in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, the temperature dropped by 17 degrees between Wednesday and Thursday.

The region also had its most serious dust storm this spring on Friday.

(China Daily 04/11/2005 page3)

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