Egg-sized hailstones caused devastation in a tornado which tore across the Chinese province of Dongguan
A tornado that ripped through southern China has caused widespread devastation, killing at least 24 people and leaving scores more injured.
The storm hit the Daoxian province in south of the country on Wednesday, said Zhou Jingzhong, head of the county government's publicity office.
Strong tornado winds - which can reach speeds of 300 mph - caused a ferry to overturn in a river in the south-eastern province of Fujian, causing the deaths of 11 people, with four still missing, said local website qq.com.
Nine people were killed in the town of Dongguan, with images showing shattered car windscreens, apparently smashed by egg-sized hailstones.
Many of the dead were trapped inside collapsed buildings. A further 148 people were also injured, including 11 who are on the critical list.
Other areas affected by storms and torrential rain were in the nearby Jiangxi and Hunan provinces of central China and Guizhou, in the southwest region of the country.
Around 1.5 million residents have been affected by the severe weather and 215,000 people have been forced to relocate, according to the Xinhua news agency.
Southwest China is still recovering from thunder and hailstorms which swept Guizhou province seven days ago. Some 24 counties and cities were hit by the storms which damaged houses and 8,700 hectares of farmland.
More storms bringing rain, wind and hail are forecast for the south of the country over the next three days, according to reports by Xinhua, the Chinese news agency.
Wang Li, director of the Hunan Meteorological Administration's division of emergency and disaster relief, said: "This kind of weather frequently occurs during spring in Hunan, but such severity is rare."
Wang said the provincial meteorological authorities had issued orange storm alerts in 40 cities and counties across the province on Tuesday night, the second-highest level in China's three-tier colour-coded warning system.
"Given that the spring crop sowing season has just started in our province, the damage to plants is likely to be limited," he told China Daily, although adding that vegetable and tobacco growers may suffer economic losses.
Labourers clean up the debris of a shed which was destroyed by a thunderstorm and hail in Dongguan, Guangdong province March 20, 2013. At least eight people died and 136 others were injured after a thunderstorm and hail hit the city in south China's Guangdong Province, local authorities said Wednesday, Xinhua News Agency reported.
To contact the editor, e-mail: