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Powerful tornado strikes east China; 98 reportedly dead

BEIJING — Rescuers in eastern China searched Friday for survivors of a tornado and hail storm that killed at least 98 people as it swept over a city's outskirts, destroying buildings, smashing trees, and overturning vehicles.

The tornado hit a densely populated area of farms and factories Thursday near the city of Yancheng in Jiangsu province, about 500 miles south of Beijing.

Jiangsu Governor Shi Taifeng said Friday that the death toll had risen to 98 people, with 800 injured, according to the official China News Service. Earlier, the state-run Xinhua News Agency had said 200 people were critically injured.

On Friday, rescuers carried injured villagers into ambulances and delivered food and water to others, Xinhua reported, although state broadcaster CCTV said that roads were blocked with downed power lines and debris.

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Heavy rain and the possibility of more tornadoes complicated rescue efforts.

In Xintu village, survivors grieved over lost relatives.

''The people inside tried to run outside, but the wind was too strong so they couldn't,'' villager Wang Shuqing said. ''My family members were all inside, they all died. The police then came and took the bodies out, I can't bear it.''

Associated Press