Extreme weather hits China with massive floods and scorching heat

HONG KONG — China is facing extreme weather emergencies across the country, with the worst floods in decades submerging homes and cars in the south and record heat waves in northern and central provinces causing roads to warp.

Water levels in more than 100 rivers across the country have exceeded flood warning levels, according to the People’s Daily, a spokesman for the Communist Party. Authorities in Guangdong province on Tuesday raised alerts to the highest level after days of rain and flooding, closing schools, businesses and public transport in affected areas.

The floods interrupted the lives of nearly half a million people in southern China. State media footage showed rescuers in boats paddling across the flooded roads to relieve trapped residents. In Shaoguan, a manufacturing hub, factories were forced to halt production as water levels reached the highest level in 50 years, state television reported.

Guangdong’s emergency management department said the rains affected 479,600 people, ruined nearly 30 hectares of crops and caused more than 1,700 homes to collapse, with financial losses totaling US$261 million, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

China has faced summer floods for centuries, but this year’s floods also coincided with heat waves that hit the northern part of the country, where heavy rains are also expected to move in the coming days, according to the Central Meteorological Observatory.

Temperatures on Tuesday hit a high of 104 degrees Fahrenheit in nine northern and central provinces. In Henan, road surface temperatures of up to 165 degrees Fahrenheit created breaks in cement roads last week that resembled the aftermath of an earthquake, local media reported.

Scorching heat in some of China’s most populous provinces has boosted demand for air conditioning, fueling record electricity use. In Shandong, a province in northeast China with a population of 100 million, peak electricity load hit a record 92.94 million kilowatts on Tuesday, surpassing the 2020 high of 90.22 million kilowatts, it said. state television.

Prime Minister Li Keqiang said on Tuesday, while visiting a thermal power company, that the country must increase coal production capacity to avoid power outages.

China’s floods and heat waves this year have stretched for days and weeks, as they did last year when weeks of flooding killed hundreds, caused power outages and displaced millions in central and southwest China, including in Zhengzhou, where the waters were trapped. passengers on the subway.

The two-front climate emergency that China is facing reflects a global trend of increasingly frequent and prolonged episodes of extreme weather driven by climate change.

China has converted farmland into cities in recent decades, lifting millions of people in rural areas out of poverty. But in its quest for economic development, it has also become the world’s biggest polluter, with greenhouse gas emissions greater than those of all developed nations combined.

Since then, Xi Jinping has become the country’s first leader to commit to tackling climate change as a national priority. China introduced a carbon market last July to reduce emissions, and over the past two decades it has nearly quintupled the amount of green space in its cities.

But significant environmental damage has already been done. The devastation and disruption resulting from the greenhouse gases that have already been emitted will likely continue for years to come.

@Zixu Wang in Hong Kong and I read you in Shanghai contributed reports.

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