At least 25 people have been killed and more than 200 injured by a freak storm that rained egg-sized hail down on central China.
Weather officials had issued a warning that the severe weather would descend late on Friday, but it did not reach the public in time.
Many of the dead were killed when poorly-constructed buildings collapsed under the force of the storm that swept through Henan and Guangdong provinces.
Fifteen people died in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan, when several buildings were destroyed, including a petrol station and an animal feed factory, the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper said.
‘‘It lasted for about 25 minutes,’’ said an official in Zhengzhou, who described the storm as ‘‘big winds and big thunder’’.
He said 16 people had died in the area, and about 200 were injured.
Wind speeds reached up to 45 mph, the People’s Daily newspaper said.
Traffic across the region was snarled, with roads littered with broken tree trunks, and the mayor’s hot line jammed with complaints, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Electricity, telecommunications and water were all cut off, but had been fully restored during over the weekend, the Zhengzhou official said.
Mayor Yao Daixian told Xinhua he did not expect such severe damage.
‘‘It is really a tough challenge to the government’s ability to deal with an emergency,’’ he said.
Yao added that he had demanded stricter housing standards and higher levels of disaster preparedness.
The Henan Province Meteorological Station had issued a warning to local governments earlier on Friday that the storm would hit the northern part of the province, but it failed to reach the public in time, said station manager Gu Wanlong.
‘‘We said there would be a thunderstorm. It Is difficult to predict hail,’’ Gu said.
Rainstorms also battered Guangdong province, killing nine people, injuring 20 and leaving one person missing in flash floods that have affected tens of thousands, Xinhua said.
In the county of Wongyuan, 8.27 inches of rain fell between July 18 and July 20. In Xingfeng county, 8.19 inches fell in the same period, Xinhua said, using figures from the provincial flood prevention office.
The resulting flash floods in mountainous areas affected 31,200 people in 11 towns, Xinhua said.
Most of the affected residents have been moved to safe places, Xinhua said. About 800 people were killed in May and June by pre-wet season floods which took the country by surprise.