At least 98 people died on Thursday after a powerful tornado, hailstorms and heavy rain slammed into eastern China, turning buildings into rubble, crushing trees and leaving many homeless.
In addition to the dead, at least 500 people suffered injuries – 200 of them critical – the Xinhua news agency reported after the weather barreled throughYancheng City in China’s Jiangsu province on Thursday afternoon. Hundreds of villagers were trapped in rubble, according to Xinhua.
The twister was one of the most extreme weather events witnessed by China in recent years, leaving a swath of destruction with destroyed buildings, smashed trees and flipped vehicles on their roofs. A sprawling solar panel factory was shredded, forcing fire crews to secure toxic materials before they leaked into neighboring waterways.
Rescuers carried hurt villagers into ambulances and delivered food and water, while army units worked to clear roads blocked by trees, downed power lines and other debris. While the weather cleared Friday, forecasters were warning of the possibility of more heavy rain, hailstorms and even additional twisters.
Tents and other emergency supplies were being sent from Beijing, while schools and other facilities were used to shelter survivors.
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.