China endures worst heat in half-century

Updated: 2013-08-14 06:31


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China endures worst heat in half-century

A fountain provides respite for a child in Sanlitun. Chen Yehua / for China Daily

BEIJING - The sweltering summer of 2013 is going on record as the hottest summer in China since 1961.

According to a Monday microblog post by the National Meteorological Center (NMC), temperatures have reached or exceeded 35 degrees Celsius for an average of 25.3 days in eight provinces and municipalities since July 1, marking the greatest number of hot days recorded during the period since 1961.

Extreme heat has resulted in at least 40 deaths in south China, according to local government reports. Over ten people died from heatstroke in Shanghai during the period.

Outdoor laborers like sanitation workers are most vulnerable to the scorching heat. In central China's Hunan Province, three sanitation workers died of heatstroke within less than one month. Another municipal worker in east China's city of Hangzhou died while returning after an entire day of working under the blazing sun.

Authorities have for the first time declared the heat to be a second-level weather emergency, a label normally used for typhoons and floods. The NMC issued a second-level heat alert on Tuesday for the next 20 days.

In southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, high temperatures and scarce rainfall have all but obliterated the local mosquito population, according to a local resident surnamed Lei.

The municipal disease control center said the area's mosquito density in June was down 57.1 percent compared to the previous year.

Local residents who lack air conditioning have had to get creative in order to beat the heat. Computer saleswoman Wang Jing splashes water on her floor to cool her bedroom down before she goes to sleep, while her neighbor has chosen to sleep on the balcony at night.

In rural areas across south China, a worsening drought that has accompanied the persistent heat has taken a heavy toll on agriculture and made drinking water increasingly difficult to obtain.

A Tuesday report from the Hunan provincial government said 3.06 million people have suffered from drinking water shortages, with the drought affecting 85.6 percent of the province's villages.

Drinking water scarcity is also affecting 1.17 million people in the neighboring province of Hubei, where authorities said they do not expect significant rainfall until August 22.

The heat has also caused damage to the vast bamboo forests of Hunan's Taojiang County, as high temperatures have increased the appetites of locusts and therefore hastened their reproduction.

The highest temperature recorded in the country was seen in the city of Fenghua in east China's Zhejiang Province, which recorded a historic high temperature of 43 degrees Celsius over the last few days.

Local resident Wang Gengdi is unaccustomed to the shortage of drinking water being experienced in the area, as the city is close to numerous rivers and lakes.

"We haven't seen a lack of water in many years, but right now the only source of drinking water in my village is a pond with limited supplies," she said.

Yang Jinbao, a honey peach farmer in Fenghua, has seen his honey peaches wither to the size of a ping-pong ball. About 800 of his honey peach trees have died.

The heat is also causing unexpected accidents. A billboard in Zhejiang mysteriously caught fire during the heat, while in Hangzhou, 236 instances of car tires blowing out have been reported.

The NMA said Tuesday that the range and intensity of the heat will decrease over the next three days, although temperatures over 35 degree Celsius will persist in some areas.

On Monday, Vice Premier Wang Yang called for greater efforts to fight droughts and floods to ensure the safety of those affected by the disasters.

The central government had allocated 460 million yuan ($74.6 million) to ease droughts and prevent floods by August 9.