BEIJING (AP) _ A powerful wind storm tore through China's remote northwest, killing six people, injuring 256 others and leaving another 44 people missing, the state-run Xinhua News agency reported.

The wind and sandstorm last Sunday in the Xinjiang region, much of which is desert, affected 1.56 million people, damaged 38,000 homes and ripped up phone and electrical lines, Xinhua said late Friday.

Meanwhile, another nine people were killed in a hail storm in southern China Thursday that demolished houses, flattened crops, forced firms to close and disrupted transport and communications links, Xinhua said.

The storm dumped hailstones up to 3 inches across _ larger than a golf ball _ on Hunan province's Changde city, about 800 miles south of Beijing, Xinhua said.

After the wind storm in Xinjiang, more than 20,000 people fell sick, many presumably from inhaling dust. The storm also killed more than 99,000 livestock animals, Xinhua said.

Losses were estimated at 1.1 billion yuan ($13.2 million), it said.

The winds, which also fanned forest and residential fires, were caused by the collision of a cold air mass from Siberia and a warm front from the Caspian Sea in Central Asia, an earlier Xinhua report said.