BEIJING, June 23 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered all-out rescue efforts and the prioritization of life-saving measures, after at least 78 people were confirmed killed in one of the deadliest natural disasters to hit east China's Jiangsu Province in decades Thursday.
Downpours, hailstorms and the worst tornado since 1966 battered parts of Yancheng City at 2:30 p.m., destroying homes and trapping hundreds of villagers in the rubble.
More deaths are feared, as search and rescue continued into Friday. About 500 people were injured, of which 200 were in critical conditions, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
Xi, who is in Uzbekistan for a state visit and to attend a two-day summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, ordered the State Council to dispatch a work group to Jiangsu to oversee relief work.
Authorities must make their utmost efforts to reduce casualties and facilitate resettlement of those affected by the extreme weather, he said.
They must also strengthen meteorological monitoring and geological disaster assessment.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, meanwhile, also instructed authorities to step up search and rescue work and medical treatment for the injured.
Efforts should be made to restore normal life and production in the affected areas as soon as possible, Li said, adding that authorities must improve disaster prevention and response work in the rain season, and minimize losses.
Communist Party and government leaders of Jiangsu have already rushed to disaster-hit areas to direct rescue efforts. A State Council work group headed by deputy minister of civil affairs Dou Yupei is also en route.