More than 98 people have died and almost 800 have been injured after a tornado and hailstorm hit the eastern-central coastal province of China, Jiangsu, early on Thursday, the government said.
The extreme weather, which included a strong tornado, struck mid-afternoon on Thursday near Yancheng city, which is located 317 km from China's commercial capital Shanghai, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.
Winds reaching up to 125 kilometers (78 mph) per hour overturned cars and destroyed homes and factories in the province.
"I heard the gales and ran upstairs to shut the windows," a local resident, Xie Litian, 62, told Xinhua.
"I had hardly reached the top of the stairs when I heard a boom and saw the entire wall with the windows on it torn away,”
" When the storm subsided and I escaped, all the neighbouring houses were gone. It was like the end of the world," he added.
Almost 7 million residents of the province have been affected by the chaos resulting from the extreme weather conditions.
Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered his cabinet to mount "all-out rescue efforts" to deal with the worst disaster ever to hit the province.
Power and communications were down, as rescuers rushed the scene with 1,000 tents, water and food, according to a statement by China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs.
Heavy rain, strong winds and hail have been affecting the country throughout the week.
Earlier this week flooding claimed more than 22 lives and 20 people remain missing.