Extreme Weather Hits China With Massive Floods and Scorching Heat
HONG KONG — China is grappling with extreme weather events across the country, with its worst flooding in decades flooding homes and cars in the south and record high heat waves in the northern and central provinces causing roads to collapse.
Water levels in more than 100 rivers across the country have risen above flood warning levels, according to the popular, mouthpiece of the ruling communist party. Authorities in Guangdong province raised the alarm to the highest level on Tuesday after days of rainfall and flooding, which have closed schools, businesses and public transportation in the affected areas.
The floods have disrupted the lives of nearly half a million people in southern China. Footage on state media shows rescue crews paddling on boats on swampy roads to free trapped residents. In Shaoguan, a production center, factories were ordered to stop productionas water levels have reached a 50-year high, state television reported.
Guangdong’s emergency department said the rainfall affected 479,600 people, destroyed nearly 30 acres of crops and caused the collapse of more than 1,700 homes, with financial losses totaling $261 million, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
China has struggled with summer flooding for centuries, but flooding this year also coincided with heatwaves that hit the northern part of the country, where heavy rains are also expected to continue in the coming days, according to the Central Meteorological Observatory.
Temperatures reached a high of 104 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday in nine northern and central counties. In Henan, roadside temperatures of up to 165 degrees Fahrenheit last week caused cracks in cement roads that resembled the aftermath of an earthquake, local media reported.
The scorching heat in some of China’s most populous provinces has increased demand for air conditioning, causing record electricity consumption. In Shandong, a province in northeast China with a population of 100 million, the maximum electricity load hit a record 92.94 million kilowatts on Tuesday, surpassing the 2020 high of 90.22 million kilowatts, state television said.
Prime Minister Li Keqiang said during a tour of a cogeneration company on Tuesday that the country needs to increase coal production capacity to avoid power outages.
Floods and heatwaves in China have lasted for days and weeks this year, as they did last year, when weeks of flooding killed hundreds, caused power outages and displaced millions in central and southwestern China, including in Zhengzhou, where floods commute in the subway.
The two-pronged weather emergency experienced by China reflects a global trend of increasingly frequent and prolonged periods of extreme weather due to climate change.
In recent decades, China has transformed farmlands into cities and lifted millions of people out of poverty in rural areas. But in its pursuit of economic development, it has also become the world’s largest polluter, emitting greenhouse gases greater than all developed countries combined.
Xi Jinping has since become the country’s first leader to pledge to address climate change as a national priority. China introduced a carbon market last July to curb emissions and has nearly quadrupled the acreage of green space in its cities over the past two decades.
But significant environmental damage has already been done. The devastation and disruption from the greenhouse gases already emitted is likely to continue for years to come.
@Zixu Wang in Hong Kong and Li You in Shanghai contributed reporting.