High winds and freak hailstones kill 25 in China

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The Independent Online

Hailstones the size of hens' eggs, flash floods and high winds killed at least 25 people in China at the weekend and injured more than 200.

Hailstones the size of hens' eggs, flash floods and high winds killed at least 25 people in China at the weekend and injured more than 200.

Questions were being raised over the level of disaster preparedness in Henan, the worst-hit province, after it emerged that the provincial meteorological station issued a severe weather warning an hour before the storm, but the message failed to reach the public.

Most of the casualties happened on Friday night in Zhengzhou, Henan's capital, when buildings collapsed after being bombarded by the freak hail for about 25 minutes. Hospitals were crowded with scores of people who were struck by hail and debris.

An official at the anti-flood centre in Zhengzhou said 16 people died and about 200 suffered injuries when a gas station, houses, a feed factory and a storage facility collapsed. Telecommunications, electricity and water supplies were cut.

"We said there would be a thunderstorm. It's difficult to predict hail," said the weather station manager, Gu Wanlong, who blamed limited equipment for the late forecast.

In Guandong province, nine people died in flash floods, and one was still missing yesterday. More than 30,000 people were forced to leave their homes as 11 towns were deluged.

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