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China Cities Issue Red Alerts as Heatwave Scorches Nation

Citing climate change, officials have warned against disasters from mid-July, usually the hottest and wettest time of year.

Many cities in China have seen temperatures above 40C recently.
A woman covers herself with a hat and mask as she rides a bicycle in Beijing. Many cities have seen temperatures above 40C recently. Photo: Kim Kyung-Hoon, Reuters.

Multiple Chinese cities including financial centre Shanghai faced scorching temperatures on Tuesday that caused popped roof tiles and buckled roads, prompting some to seek cover in underground shelters. 

Red alerts, the highest in a three-tier warning system, were issued by 86 cities for temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit in the coming 24 hours.  Construction and other outdoor will be stopped.

Shanghai, which is still fighting sporadic outbreaks of COVID-19, told its population of 25 million to prepare for hot weather this week after issuing its first red alert in five years on Sunday. Since record-keeping began in 1873, Shanghai has had just 15 days of temperatures exceeding 40 degrees.

Vendors reported surging sales of ice cream, melons and crayfish chilled in liquor, a popular summertime dish. At a sprawling Shanghai wildlife park, eight tonnes of ice are used each day to keep lions, pandas and other animals cool.

In a photograph shared on social media, a COVID health worker in a full-body hazmat suit hugged a one-metre (3-foot) tall block of ice by a road.

“This year, the heat has arrived a little earlier than before,” said Shanghai resident Zhu Daren, as her five-year-old son played at a water fountain.

“Although it is just July, I feel the warm weather has already reached the high point. Basically, you need to turn on the air-conditioning when you get home and put on some sunscreen when you go out.”


READ MORE:  China Faces Economic Hit From Extreme Weather in July, August


Searing Summers

China’s summer of contrasts this year has brought havoc from heatwaves and heavy rainfall in turn. Authorities citing climate change have warned against disasters from mid-July, usually the hottest and wettest time of year.

In a town in the southern province of Jiangxi province, a section of a road arched up at least 15 cms (6 inches) because of the heat, state television showed.

Nanjing, one of China’s three “furnaces” notorious for their searing summers, has opened its underground air-raid shelters to residents since Sunday, with its war-time bunkers equipped with WiFi, books, water dispensers and even microwave ovens.

The city issued a red alert on Tuesday.

In Chongqing, the second “furnace”, the roof of one museum literally melted, with the tiles of a traditional Chinese roof popping as the heat dissolved the underlying tar. The city called a red alert on Monday.

Chongqing has also deployed sanitation water-spraying trucks to keep its roads cool.

This week, high temperatures, humidity and ultraviolet radiation are also forecast to envelop the central city of Wuhan, the third furnace, as it is called.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Kevin Hamlin


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Kevin Hamlin

Kevin Hamlin is a financial journalist with extensive experience covering Asia. Before joining Asia Financial, Kevin worked for Bloomberg News, spending 12 years as Senior China Economy Reporter in Beijing. Prior to that, he was Asia Bureau Chief of Institutional Investor for ten years.


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