Unprecedented heatwaves, drought continue to sweep central, eastern China

Beijing, Aug 22 (EFE).- An intense heatwave not seen in decades dragged on in central China on Monday, the 11th consecutive day of the highest alert level for the most scorching Chinese summer in more than half a century.

The central and eastern provinces as well as the basin of the Yangtze River, running through the center of the country, are the worst affected.

The river is the longest in China and the third longest in the world.

Since Aug.1, over 200 weather stations located in the eastern Zhejiang and the central Chongqing, Sichuan and Shaanxi have recorded temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius, state-run newspaper Global Times reported.

Rainfall in the Yangtze River basin since July has been 40 percent less than in the same period a year earlier and the lowest since 1961.

The Sichuan province, with an area slightly larger than that of Sweden and a population of 84 million, is experiencing the worst heatwave and the least amount of rainfall since record-keeping began, according to local media reports.

The region’s dependence on hydroelectric power to generate 80 percent of its energy has further exacerbated the situation.

Sichuan began suspending activity at several factories last week as power generation has been unable to match the increasing demand.

Local authorities have also urged residents to limit power consumption and the use of air conditioning.

Other Chinese regions have sent 50 emergency power generating vehicles to Sichuan to ease the shortages.

The Chinese government has insisted that there will not be a repeat of the situation that arose last year, when industrial production in some the country’s major manufacturing hubs was interrupted by a shortage of supply.

A few months ago, President Xi Jinping vowed that China “will never allow a major incident like large-scale power cuts to happen again.”

The lack of rainfall is also affecting agriculture.

Mid-late August is an important period for some crops in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze, so the persistent heatwave and drought will reduce the yield of crops such as soybean and corn, Sun Shao, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, told Global Times on Monday.

In the central Hubei province, through which the Yangtze River flows, around 220,000 people have had difficulty accessing drinking water in recent days and at least 690,000 hectares of farmland have been damaged as a result of the drought, according to official data.

Provincial capitals including Nanjing in the east and Nanchang in the center have received no rainfall in August as a result of the drought.

It has also caused the bed of Jialing River in the central Chongqing to be exposed due to a drop in the water level and revealed 600-year-old Buddhist sculptures due to declining water levels of the Yangtze River in the city.

The drought has caused fires in the mountainous areas of Chongqing that have led to the evacuation of more than 1,500 people with the assistance of more than 5,000 rescue personnel, including firefighters, armed forces and rescue teams.

The drought is expected to worsen over the next 10 days due to continuous high temperatures and lack of rainfall, Sun added.

Local meteorologist Chen Lijuan recently explained that periods of intense heat, which start earlier, end later and last longer, could become the “new normal” in the Asian country under the “effect of climate change.” EFE

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