Reuters: SHANGHAI As authorities fight forest fires and mobilize specialized teams to protect crops from scorching temperatures across the Yangtze river basin, China has issued its first national drought alert of the year.
After weeks of extreme heat in areas ranging from Sichuan in the southwest to Shanghai in the Yangtze delta, the national “yellow alert” was issued late on Thursday, with government officials repeatedly citing global climate change as the cause. This warning is only two levels down from Beijing’s maximum severity.
Poyang Lake, in Jiangxi province in central China, has shrunk to a quarter of its normal size for this time of year, state news agency Xinhua reported on Thursday.
According to state media CCTV, as many as 66 rivers in 34 counties in Chongqing’s southwestern region have dried up.
According to CCTV, which relied on information provided by the local government, this year’s rainfall in Chongqing is 60% lower than average, leaving the soil in several districts severely dehydrated.
Temperatures reached 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday in the Beibei district north of Chongqing’s urban center, according to the Chinese weather bureau.
Six of the ten hottest places in China on Friday morning were in Chongqing, with Bishan district temperatures nearing 39 degrees Celsius. It was already 37 degrees in Shanghai.
As mountain and forest fires broke out across the Chongqing region, the region’s infrastructure and emergency services were put under increasing strain. There was an increase in cases of heatstroke, according to state media.
On Friday, the gas utility in the Fuling area informed customers that they would be temporarily suspending service while they dealt with “serious safety hazards.”
The agricultural bureau in Chongqing has formed teams of specialists to guard vulnerable crops and increase planting to make up for losses before the autumn harvest.
High temperatures in July alone impacted 5.5 million people and resulted in direct economic losses of 2.73 billion yuan ($400 million), according to data released late Thursday by China’s emergency ministry.
Meanwhile, on Friday, the National Meteorological Center (NMC) of China announced on its Weibo channel that it was renewing its high-temperature red alert for the 30th consecutive day. In addition, state forecasters have predicted that the current heatwave won’t begin to cool down until the 26th.
According to the weather service’s daily update, more than 200 weather stations have reported record high temperatures, and 4.5 million square kilometers of national territory (nearly half of the country’s total area) have experienced temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius or higher over the past month.
($1 = 6.8103 yuan)
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)
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