Extreme weather

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 August 2000



(2000), "Extreme weather", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 9 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/dpm.2000.07309cac.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Extreme weather

Extreme weather

26 April 1999 - Beijing, China

A tornado destroyed more than 5,000 houses and killed at least three people in China's southern province of Hunan, a local official said today. The tornado ravaged Anxiang county for an hour on Friday evening (23 April), injuring 197 people, the official said. About 6,000 hectares of rice, 13,000 hectares of rape, and 3,000 hectares of cotton were affected, he told Reuters from Anxiang. A total of 5,100 houses were destroyed. Total losses were estimated at 60 million yuan, $7.2 million, the official said without giving further details.

29 April 1999 - At least 22 people were killed in a two-day storm which bombarded China's central province of Hubei with hailstones, a local official said today. Torrential rain ravaged Hubei's 31 cities and counties between 23-25 April, destroying houses and farmland, a provincial government official said by telephone. A local agriculture official said some areas had 250mm of rain in 24 hours and the winter wheat crop had been hit.

2 May 1999 - New Delhi, India

A heatwave that is sweeping India has killed 72 people in the past few days, officials and local media said today. Press Trust of India said 39 deaths had been reported in the worst-affected, impoverished eastern state of Orissa. Seventeen people had died in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, eight in the eastern state of Bihar, five in western Gujarat state and three in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. India Meteorological Department director-general, R.R. Kelkar, said:

The highest temperature recorded this year is 47 degrees Celsius in Hissar in Haryana.

4 May 1999 - Oklahoma and Kansas, USA

A series of titanic tornadoes ripped through the US heartland yesterday, killing at least 36 people, injuring hundreds and destroying thousands of homes. The massive storm system, described by weather forecasters as a "super outbreak of tornadoes", swept across Oklahoma and Kansas in a deadly blow that spread destruction across hundreds of miles and into dozens of communities, officials said. Oklahoma Governor, Frank Keating, said:

The magnitude of this is just unprecedented, hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage and literally hundreds and hundreds of homes destroyed. A lot of people (are) homeless tonight.

Hardest hit were the Oklahoma City area and Wichita, Kansas, where entire neighbourhoods were completely destroyed, officials said. Television reports showed fields of twisted debris where homes once stood and cars tossed like broken toys along the side of the road. Fires broke out and were fed by broken natural gas lines. Officials said there were 30 known dead in the Oklahoma capital and surrounding suburbs and six confirmed dead in Wichita, 160 miles to the north. Dramatic television videos showed the huge funnels lumbering through towns and open land, sending up whirling clouds of debris and showers of blue sparks as they snapped power lines in two. The death toll was likely to rise as rescuers, hampered by downed power lines and scattered debris, searched on foot through the devastated areas. Weather forecasters said the family of storms that hit the region were of F-5 strength, capable of causing devastating damage. Forecasters said it was possible some areas could have been hit with a force of intensity F-6, considered catastrophic. Governor Keating said:

There are a lot of communities we're getting information from highway patrol and sheriff's officers that have been literally obliterated.

The wounded flooded local medical facilities, where doctors and nurses rushed to treat them. Oklahoma City police captain Charles Allen said the tornado tore through 13 miles of the city, destroying everything in its path:

Entire neighbourhoods were destroyed. An entire residential area was flattened.

He estimated that 1,000 homes had been levelled. In the suburb of Del City, according to Sergeant Jody Suit of the Del City police department, 750 homes were wiped away. Police cordoned off a 25-square-mile area in Oklahoma City, forbidding all traffic from entering from the south. In the suburb of Midwest City, officials declared martial law. Keating said the National Guard had been sent in to keep order and help search for victims. As many as four dozen tornadoes were spotted across the region but more were springing up throughout the night as the storm marched across the two states and dipped down into north Texas. The tornadoes were massive, with winds spreading a mile across the land and stretching ten miles into the sky. Keating said:

These are some of the biggest tornadoes ever reported.

4 May 1999 - Rescue workers are digging through the twisted rubble left by a swarm of powerful spring tornadoes that tore through the Oklahoma City area late yesterday, killing at least 26 people. In an interview today on the NBC Today programme, Governor Frank Keating said the death toll could climb to between 30 and 40 people. The Emergency Management Agency's last update today stated there were 26 confirmed deaths. Keating said the damage is going to be greater than originally estimated, probably in the "hundreds of millions of dollars". He said the estimate of 1,000 damaged homes is probably conservative. In Washington, President Clinton is preparing to promptly issue a disaster declaration for the state of Oklahoma to set in motion federal relief efforts. State Emergency Management spokesman Ben Frizzell reports today that eight people were killed in Oklahoma City, eight in Bridge Creek, four in Midwest City, three in Moore, two in Del City, and one in Norman. In Kansas, there were at least five deaths reported yesterday in Wichita after a twister hit a trailer park and apartment complex on the south side of the city. The storm left much of the city without power overnight. In Oklahoma City, hospitals treated more than 150 people and there were estimates that 600 to 800 homes were damaged by the twisters.

4 May 1999 - Three Oklahomans died of injuries caused by killer tornadoes this week while storms from the same front in Tennessee claimed four lives to push the death toll in the southern plains to 51 today. Three deaths in area hospitals raised the confirmed toll in Oklahoma to 41, said Oklahoma's chief medical examiner Fred Jordan. "The type of injuries that are fatal are predominantly head and chest", Jordan told a news conference. Oklahoma's new death toll put the total number of confirmed fatalities from this week's storms at 51. In Wichita, Kansas, five people were killed by a twister so violent that it hurled homes from a trailer park into a nearby lake. In north-east Texas Tuesday (5 May), a tornado killed a 79-year-old woman in Bridges Chapel. Earlier fears that the Oklahoma death toll might rise sharply eased somewhat today as officials reported that dozens of people who had been reported missing had in fact been located safe and sound. Fourteen people remained unaccounted for, down from some 55 earlier today, said Jordan.

4 May 1999 - A total of 45 people were killed and hundreds more missing or injured today, after three dozen tornadoes slammed into Oklahoma and Kansas with such savage force that entire communities were wiped out. Oklahoma officials reported 40 people killed in their state, 541 injured, 1,500 buildings destroyed or damaged and vast sections of Oklahoma City and its suburbs levelled. Five more people were killed in Wichita and Haysville, Kansas, where homes in a trailer park where hurled into a nearby lake by furious winds of more than 200mph (320kph). President Bill Clinton declared parts of Oklahoma and Kansas major disaster areas. Officials in Oklahoma said they had made two sweeps of the devastation and were now ready to make a third with heavy equipment to see if anyone is dead or injured under the rubble of what once were homes and businesses. Police said they had minimal reports of looting as National Guard troops were stationed throughout the devastated areas. Oklahoma City officials said the tornado cut a 19-mile (30km) long, half-mile (0.8km) wide swathe through the state, during a 30- to 45-minute long reign of terror. Meteorologists said three dozen tornadoes had been reported across the region yesterday, 15 of them in Oklahoma. Entire neighbourhoods were destroyed in Oklahoma City and rescue officials cordoned off a 12-square-mile (31km2) section of the city as the National Guard combed the rubble for survivors. The Oklahoma City suburb of Moore resembled a war zone of wrecked and levelled buildings. The parking lot of West Moore High School was strewn with overturned cars. Several other communities in central Oklahoma were reduced to fields of rubble. Rescue efforts were hampered by fallen power lines and broken natural gas pipelines that spewed highly combustible gas into the air. Brian Alford, a spokesman for Oklahoma Gas and Electricity, said 110,000 homes were without power.

5 May 1999 - Emergency officials began allowing some people to return but urged patience as relief workers checked the estimated 2,000-3,000 homes destroyed by the winds. Insurance companies began assessing the bill for the disaster. One major Oklahoma City area insurer, State Farm, said it anticipated handling at least 26,000 homeowners' claims worth $100 million and 12,000 automobile claims worth some $48 million. Added to other damage around Oklahoma and Kansas, officials said the total costs could be as high as $1 billion, although many added that it too early to make any firm prediction. At a briefing on Wednesday officials said work to restore gas and electricity was moving ahead quickly, with more than 90,000 of the original 116,000 electric customers back on line. In the small town of Bridge Creek, a total of 11 people were killed when the storms blew through, pulverizing small homes and literally scraping stores off the ground. In Mulhall to the north of Oklahoma City, dozens of houses and buildings were destroyed, the town's water tower was snapped and crushed and the elementary school was reduced to a pile of rubble. Only one of the town's 200 residents was seriously injured. In Oklahoma City's hard-hit southern suburbs, police and National Guard troops lifted a night-time curfew and began allowing a trickle of residents back into their storm-ravaged neighbourhoods.

7 May 1999 - Some 10,000 homes were destroyed by this week's killer tornadoes in Oklahoma, a disaster that will take months if not years to overcome, officials said today. Buddy Young, regional director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said it appeared that far more homes were destroyed by the tornadoes Monday (3 May) than earlier believed. Young told a news conference:

The state insurance commissioner said in his report based on his adjusters that there are 10,000 homes that are unlivable.

That number was some five times higher than earlier estimates. One insurance group has already said it expected the insured losses around Oklahoma City alone to reach as much as $500 million. The death toll was 41 in Oklahoma while the same storm system killed five people in Wichita, Kansas. Another twister killed one woman in Titus, Texas, on Tuesday and related storms sweeping in Tennessee left four dead there on Wednesday. Fourteen people remained unaccounted for as of late yesterday, officials said. FEMA, which co-ordinates federal money, personnel and materials in emergency relief efforts, will likely be active in the Oklahoma City area for at least three months, Young said.

10 May 1999 - Insured losses from the deadly tornadoes that struck the Midwest last week may top $1 billion, up from an earlier estimate of about $500 million, an insurance industry official said today. Bill Bailey, who is heading up the Tornado Insurance Information Centre in Oklahoma City for the Insurance Information Institute, said he believes the insured damage could exceed $1 billion for the region based on his on-the-ground observations. Property Claim Services, a separate organisation that provides the industry's official estimates of catastrophe losses, expects to have a projection ready by the end of the week. Although Oklahoma was hardest hit by the twisters, the storms moved on to other states and did not finish doing damage until Friday (7 May), said Christopher Guidette, a spokesman for the Insurance Services Office, the parent of PCS. Therefore, PCS is assessing the damage, not only in Oklahoma, but in a number of other states as well, he said. Oklahoma City and surroundings bore the brunt of the damage from a storm system that killed 41 people in Oklahoma, five in Kansas, one in Texas and four in Tennessee. Twisters with winds of up to more than 300mph (480kph) destroyed or severely damaged 10,000 homes in Oklahoma.

12 May 1999 - Manila, Philippines

Ten people were killed and ten others were injured in a landslide caused by heavy rains in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, the military's civil defence office said. The landslide occurred in Compostela Valley on Monday (10 May), wrecking three houses in the process, civil defence office administrator Melchor Capistrano said. Heavy rains also damaged a concrete bridge in the town of Tiboli and washed out seven houses, injuring ten people. At least one person was reported missing in the area.

11 June 1999 - Cyclone in Indian Ocean

In the 20 May cyclone, 193 people were killed, 151 are missing, 155 were injured, 49,701 houses were completely destroyed and 58,720 partially damaged. Cattle killed are estimated at 27,771 and the number of capsized boats is 660 in districts Thatta and Badin, according to a survey made by the revenue department. The cyclone hit five talukas, Badin, Golarchi, Matli, Tando Bago, and Talhar in district Badin. In these areas 66 people were killed, two missing, 105 critically injured, 60 boats "downed" and missing, 16,771 cattle killed, 49,167 houses completely collapsed and 38,720 houses partially damaged. In Thatta district six talukas, Keti Bandar, Kharo Chhan, Shah Bandar, Jati, Sujawal and Ghorabari were hit. As a result, 127 people were killed, another 139 missing, 50 injured, 600 boats "downed" and missing, 11,000 cattle killed, 25,534 houses completely collapsed and 20,000 partially damaged.

15 June 1999 - Monterrey, Mexico

At least ten people died last night in the northern city of Monterrey when flash floods swept through highway underpasses, trapping dozens of people in their cars, emergency workers said today. Rescue teams said Red Cross divers today were looking for an unknown number of people pinned in cars under deep water around the Nuevo Leon Autonomous University in Monterrey. Emergency services radio operator, Griselda Sanchez, told Reuters:

As of now we have ten people reported dead, but we are still looking for people trapped in their vehicles.

The fire department said heavy rains began at 22.00 yesterday, accompanied by strong winds that toppled trees and electric wires, electrocuting at least one person and cutting power to some 9,000 homes. The local weather service forecast more rain for today.

16 June 1999 - north-western China

Floods and hail storms have killed 21 people in north-western China in the last week, state media reported today. Unusually heavy summer rains in parts of Qinghai province have caused flooding and mud slides since 12 June, newspapers and the official Xinhua News Agency said. Three other people were missing, Xinhua said. Flooding and hail have damaged 160 homes, killed 12,000 head of livestock, submerged farmland and destroyed roads, bridges and water conservation facilities in the area, the reports said.

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