24 dead in NW China storms

At least 24 people were killed and 37 others remain missing after hail and torrential rains battered a mountainous northwest China region near the site of a devastating mudslide two years ago, authorities reported Friday.

The natural disaster on Thursday has affected 36,000 people in Minxian county, Gansu province, forcing the area to be evacuated of 2,183 local residents. Roads were blocked, houses collapsed, and farmland was destroyed by the extreme weather, according to state and local disaster relief agencies.

Minxian’s civil affairs bureau put the number of injured locals at 40 in its mid-Friday’s casualty report. The stormy weather lasted only an hour from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., but wreaked havoc in 17 of the county’s 18 townships and villages, it said.

In the worst-hit areas, precipitation measured nearly 70 mm.

Hail and torrential rain cut power supplies in six townships, damaged homes, several hospitals and schools as well as 7,374 hectares of cropland and disrupted traffic on two interprovincial highways, the county authorities added.

Minxian is a mountainous county in Dingxi city, with a population of 450,000. It is 150 km from Zhouqu county, where a rain-triggered mudslide killed more than 1,500 people in August 2010.

Thursday’s rain also triggered floods in two other counties in Dingxi, parts of Longnan city, and Gannan Tibetan autonomous prefecture where Zhouqu is located, but no casualties were immediately reported.

The national flood control and drought relief headquarters on Friday issued fresh warnings to northwestern provinces, urging them to step up weather monitoring and flood prevention efforts.

Xinhua