At least 50 dead after tornado rips through China

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BEIJING — At least 78 people were killed and hundreds more were injured after a tornado — accompanied by hailstorms, thunderstorms and lightning — hit eastern China early Thursday afternoon, the government said.

The extreme weather destroyed homes and factories and swept away cars in the city of Yancheng in China’s Jiangsu Province, according to state news agency Xinhua. Power and communication were cut off, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

Some 500 people were injured — 200 of them critically — the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

The central government in Beijing sent a team to oversee disaster relief efforts along with 1,000 tents, 2,000 folding beds and 10 sets of floodlights. The provincial government has also sent supplies.

Tornadoes are rare in China, but not unheard of, according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. About 10 occur each year on average, but statistics can be unreliable.

When they do strike the country, tornadoes can be deadly due to the lack of warning systems, population density and vulnerable housing conditions, he said.