Extreme Weather

'I can't believe I'm alive': Scenes of carnage as China tornado toll hits 98

Whole villages were levelled and huge trees felled when winds of up to 125 kilometres per hour struck around Yancheng city.

China Tornado Firefighters stand near tornado-damaged buildings in Funing county in Yancheng city. Chinatopix via AP Chinatopix via AP

SURVIVORS ARE SEARCHING the rubble of their homes after hurricane-force winds and a tornado left at least 98 dead in China, with hundreds more injured.

Whole villages were levelled and huge trees felled when winds of up to 125 kilometres per hour struck around Yancheng city in the eastern province of Jiangsu on Thursday, the official Xinhua news agency said.

In Shizhuang, scores gathered beside a large fishing pond where a male corpse floated in the water, as workers cleared up fallen electricity poles nearby.

A distraught woman who thought he was her missing husband was held up by relatives, as another bystander asked: “How come no one is pulling him out yet?”

APTOPIX China Tornado Damaged factory buildings in Funing county Chinatopix via AP Chinatopix via AP

So far 98 people have been confirmed dead in the storm and 846 hospitalised with injuries, Yancheng’s deputy mayor Wu Xiaodan told a briefing, according to the city’s verified microblog.

President Xi Jinping ordered “all-out rescue efforts” after what Xinhua said was one of the worst disasters ever to hit Jiangsu, including the worst tornado to hit China in half a century.

In Funing County, one of the hardest-hit areas, residents shifted through the fallen bricks and pillars of their destroyed homes, many with their roofs torn off, and rubble spilled into a river.

Wu, the official, said that 28,104 houses in the county had been affected.

China Tornado Chinatopix via AP Chinatopix via AP

Funing resident Sun Yazhou was driving a concrete mixer truck when a tornado passed him, tearing the glass out of his vehicle windows:

The sky was completely dark. I was scared, but I had nowhere to run. I had to wait it out.

Zhou Xiang, head of the provincial fire corps, said the search for survivors in the debris had been completed, according to Xinhua, and the clean-up was now underway.

More than 1,300 police officers had been mobilised to help, the agency added.

The wards of a hospital in Funing county were all full, with extra beds crowding the hallways.

China Tornado Chinatopix via AP Chinatopix via AP

Sitting on a gurney in the hospital corridor, Chen Shaoxi nursed a head injury and broken leg that he sustained while saving his elderly neighbours from the storm.

“If it weren’t for my dad, those two would have been dead,” his son Wang Minming said.

A factory worker with head and arm injuries and on an intravenous drip told AFP he had been swept out of his workplace by the tornado, despite clinging to a door as he tried to hold it shut against the storm.

“It all happened so fast. I have never seen anything like this before in my life,” he said.

I thought for sure I was going to die. I can’t believe I am still alive.

© – AFP, 2016

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