China tornados
Rare tornadoes hit southern China
01:21 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

"Nobody expected this to get to Category 4 strength," meteorologist says

The storm spawned tornadoes that killed seven people, authorities say

Hong Kong CNN  — 

At least 19 people have been killed and four others are missing after an unexpectedly strong typhoon slammed into the southern coast of China, unleashing deadly tornadoes in the region, authorities said.

Typhoon Mujigae gained power quickly before it made landfall in densely populated Guangdong province on Sunday, wielding winds as strong as 216 kph (134 mph).

“It had rapid intensification,” said CNN meteorologist Tom Sater. “Nobody expected this to get to Category 4 strength.”

Since then, local authorities have been gauging the scale of the destruction.

The tornadoes created by the storm smashed into houses and other infrastructure in two major cities, Guangzhou and Foshan, killing seven people, Guangdong’s civil affairs department said.

Twisters aren’t common in southern China, but “sometimes you’ll see tornadoes spawned by the landfall of tropical systems,” Sater said.

Two fishing boats sank as Mujigae churned up the sea along the Guangdong coast, drowning three people and leaving four others missing, the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

The storm’s heavy rain also set off landslides that left seven people dead across the western half of the province, according to the civil affairs department. Another person died in a collapsed structure, it said.

In nearby Guangxi region, one person was killed by a falling tree, Xinhua reported.

Authorities said they had evacuated more than 200,000 people from vulnerable areas as the storm approached.

CNN’s Serena Dong contributed to this report.