26 dead as tornado hits China

Afp May 06, 2010

BEIJING: At least 26 people were killed when a tornado, hail storms and torrential rains hit China's southwestern mega-city of Chongqing on Thursday, damaging thousands of homes and destroying crops.

The storms, accompanied by gale-force winds, hit two rural counties in the giant municipality at around 2:00 am (1800 GMT Wednesday), leaving more than 150 people injured, state press and local officials said. State television showed collapsed homes, uprooted and downed trees, landslides and partially flooded roads in the region.

By midday Thursday, officials were still working to tally the total number of dead and injured, as well as the number of homes damaged. "Tornados never happened here in the past -- this is the first time," Liu Fang, a local township official in Liangping county, one of the hardest-hit areas, told AFP by phone. "So far, six have died and 38 are injured in our township. The electricity has been cut, and some houses were damaged due to the strong wind. We're still gathering information on the toll."

The injured were being brought to local hospitals while tents were being set up for those whose homes were destroyed, Li said. Torrential rains have been falling across the region since the tornado struck, he added. An official in Xinmin township told AFP older houses suffered "very serious" damage including collapses, while newly built brick homes also were damaged.

"We're still gathering information about the disaster," the official said. According to the People's Daily, the ruling Communist Party's mouthpiece, as many as 1,000 homes in six towns had at least partially collapsed in the storm, while thousands of others were damaged. Power was cut in several areas, many roads in the region were blocked, and bridges also suffered damage, the report said.

The cost of the damage in the six towns was expected to surpass 20 million yuan (almost three million dollars), it added, citing preliminary estimates. Chongqing has a population of more than 30 million people.

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