Monday, June 27, 2016


Jiangsu province in China found itself in the mercy of Mother Nature in one of her foul moods when they were hammered by a volatile mix of a tornado and hailstorm in the early afternoon of Thursday June 23. This cocktail of extreme weather conditions left at least 98 people killed and 800 wounded in its wake, according to CNN. Local Chinese authorities reported torrential rains accompanied by winds blowing up to 125 kilometers per hour, strong enough to wreck houses and collapse factories and even toss cars up into the air like toys in the city of Yangcheng.

BBC News adds that Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered “all-out” rescue efforts after the Xinhua news agency described the tornado strike to be the worst that hit the country in 50 years, and one of the gravest disasters to occur in Jiangsu. Relief workers however were impeded by continuing heavy rainfall and the possibility of further hail and tornadoes.

Over a thousand local police officers were deployed to aid in the cleanup and restoring of order in Yangcheng and the rest of the province after a search for survivors trapped in rubble was completed according to provincial fire corps Chief Zhou Xiang, with more than 100 victims pulled out from debris and 2,000 evacuated. Emergency food and medical supplies have begun pouring in from as far away as Beijing.

Photographs and video footage from locals and rescue officials show a stark landscape in the aftermath of the tornado and hailstorm, with flattened homes and buildings, uprooted trees and broken streetlights and power line poles. Other places in the province that were badly damaged were Lixin town and Funing County, where the local hospital was filled to overflowing with wounded patients in recovery. A nearby factory of Canadian Solar and its attached employee dormitory was completely destroyed as well, with two of its personnel reported as missing.

Many of the residents interviewed by the Agence France-Presse (AFP) and state television network CCTV described the cataclysm they had lived through a something like the end of the world, and the resulting destruction was compared to another disaster China was familiar with: earthquakes.

This was but a mere highlight in a week-long deluge of rainwater in Jiangsu, causing floods that have already killed 22 and forced the evacuation of up to 200,000 others, conditions that are considered much worse than the 1998 rainy season, according to state media. Already an estimated 2.7 billion Yuan ($410) has been calculated in terms of damage to the national economy. 

China, like parts of the United States, is susceptible to the formation of tornadoes although they happen so rarely that most Chinese people are not quite aware of how to prepare for them. And while southern China is beset by rains during the May-July monsoon season, this year was exacerbated by the El NiƱo phenomenon according to Vice-Premier Wang Yang.

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