Six dead after freak tornado tears through town in northern China

Residents try to pick up the pieces after a deadly tornado destroyed homes and factories in Kaiyuan, Liaoning province, on Wednesday afternoon.
PHOTO: Weibo/Chinanews.com

At least six people died and 190 were injured when a tornado struck a city in northeastern China on Wednesday, according to police.

The freak tornado formed in Jingouzi township in Kaiyuan, Liaoning province, at about 5pm, reaching speeds of about 23 metres per second before weakening after roughly 15 minutes, state news agency Xinhua reported.

It tore through the township, demolishing homes, uprooting trees, and stripping factories of cladding in the city's economic development zone, according to a Beijing News video posted online.

The Beijing Times website quoted a resident as saying that she saw at least one car tossed into the air and buildings smashed by the tornado.

"Power went off in surrounding areas as the tornado went by. About two or three minutes later there was thunder and then it hailed," Red Star News quoted a high school student as saying.

Kaiyuan issued an emergency alert and sent about 800 police officers, firefighters and medical personnel to the area.

By Thursday, about 210 people had been rescued and some 1,600 evacuated, The Beijing News said. About 10,000 people were also "displaced".

"There are 63 people in hospital now with 15 in critical condition," Beijing Times quoted Yu Shuxin, director of Kaiyuan's emergency management bureau, as saying. "Communication systems have recovered in most areas. Electricity infrastructure was severely damaged but we'll try our best to get the power supply back up."

Tornadoes are so rare in China, particularly the country's north, that it does not have a specific alarm for it, according to a website backed by the China Meteorological Administration.

In 2016, 99 people died and more than 800 others were injured in a tornado in Funing county, Jiangsu province.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.