Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Tornado Kills 5 in Guangzhou, a Chinese City Battered by Recent Rains

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A tornado that swept through the southern Chinese economic hub of Guangzhou killed five people and damaged scores of factory buildings on Saturday.

The tornado struck at about 3 p.m. and injured another 33 people as it slammed through the Baiyun district, in the city’s northern suburbs, the local government said. It lasted about four minutes. Hailstones, some with diameters of around 2 inches, also fell over parts of the city.

Videos shared by Chinese official media showed transmission towers and power lines igniting and debris swirling in the air, against a backdrop of a giant funnel that had darkened the midafternoon sky.

Guangzhou, a sprawling city of 19 million people and a manufacturing and technology hub, has been battered this month by heavy spring downpours. Flooding across Guangdong Province, of which Guangzhou is the capital, had already led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people last week.

The flow of warm, humid air from the South China Sea had led to the accumulation of a “large amount of unstable energy” near the ground, according to the Guangzhou government.

The authorities said a total of 141 factory buildings were damaged by the tornado and latest rains. Wind speeds had reached a maximum of about 46 miles per hour.

Search and rescue work had been concluded by Saturday evening, state media said. But officials warned that torrential rains and heavy wind and lightning would likely continue in Guangzhou in the coming days, as China prepares for a five-day Labor Day holiday beginning Wednesday.

One video shared by the Guangzhou government reminded residents not to go outdoors in heavy hail, or if they had to, to wear helmets.

The brown waters of the Pearl River flow through the heart of Guangzhou, much of which is very low-lying and has a long history of flooding.

The city has undertaken extensive efforts over the past few decades to improve its resistance to the inundations that have long accompanied the annual arrival of heavy rainstorms in late spring.

Municipal regulations have required in recent years that new apartment buildings have shops, not apartments, on the ground floor. The goal is to minimize the risk to human life during floods.

Janet Yellen, the U.S. treasury secretary, visited Guangzhou during an official visit to China earlier this month. The city recently held the Canton Fair, a major trade exhibition.

Keith Bradsher contributed reporting, and Amy Chang Chien contributed research

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