Strong gales and hailstorms destroyed houses and farmland in Southwest China's Sichuan Province on Saturday, affecting some 1.7 million people. Winds of 100 kph and hailstones as large as 5 cm in diameter hit 27 counties, cities and districts in Sichuan. By the end of the storm, 123,000 people had to be relocated and 165,000 houses and 38,000 hectares of farmland had been ruined. Sichuan has seen abnormal weather in recent days with the temperature rising to 32 C. Further gales and hail in other parts of the province were expected. In a related development, Northwest China's Qinghai Province was blanketed by dust during a large-scale sandstorm yesterday afternoon. In most areas, the sky turned grey and visibility was reduced to less than 100 m. "The storm was caused by a cold front which developed from Xinjiang and moved eastward. It was the largest sandstorm to strike the province this year."