HONG KONG — China is grappling with extreme weather emergencies across the country, with the worst flooding in decades submerging homes and cars in the south and record-breaking heatwaves in northern and central provinces causing warping roads.
Water levels in more than a hundred rivers across the country have exceeded flood warning levels, according to People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party. Authorities in Guangdong province raised the alert to the highest level on Tuesday after days of rain and flooding closed schools, businesses and public transport in affected areas.
The floods have disrupted the lives of nearly half a million people in southern China. Footage released by state media showed rescue teams on boats paddling wet roads to relieve trapped residents. In Shaoguan, a manufacturing hub, factories have been ordered to halt production as water levels hit their highest level in 50 years, state television reported.
Guangdong’s emergency management department said the downpour affected 479,600 people, destroyed nearly 30 hectares of crops and caused more than 1,700 homes to collapse, with financial losses totaling $261 million, reported. the official Xinhua news agency.
China has been battling summer floods for centuries, but this year’s floods also coincided with heat waves that hit the north of the country, where heavy rains are also expected to move in the coming days, according to the report. ‘Central Meteorological Observatory.
Temperatures hit a high of 104 degrees Fahrenheit in nine northern and central provinces on Tuesday. In Henan, roadside surface temperatures as high as 165 degrees Fahrenheit created ruptures in cement roads last week that looked like the aftermath of an earthquake, local media reported.
Scorching heat in some of China’s most populous provinces has driven up demand for air conditioning, fueling record electricity consumption. In Shandong, a northeast Chinese province with a population of 100 million, peak electric load hit a record 92.94 million kilowatts on Tuesday, surpassing the 2020 peak of 90.22 million. kilowatts, state television said.
Premier Li Keqiang said during a visit to a thermal power company on Tuesday that the country needed to increase coal generation capacity to avoid power outages.
Floods and heat waves in China this year have dragged on for days and weeks, as was the case last year when weeks of flooding killed hundreds, caused power outages and displaced millions of people in central and southwest China, including Zhengzhou, where floodwaters have trapped commuters in subways.
China’s two-pronged weather emergency mirrors a global trend of increasingly frequent and prolonged extreme weather events due to climate change.
China has converted farmland into cities in recent decades, lifting millions of people in rural areas out of poverty. But in its pursuit of economic development, it has also become the world’s biggest polluter, with greenhouse gas emissions exceeding those of all developed countries combined.
Xi Jinping has since become the country’s first leader to pledge to make the fight against climate change a national priority. China introduced a carbon market last July to reduce emissions and has, over the past two decades, nearly quintupled the area of green space in its cities.
But significant environmental damage has already been done. The devastation and disruption resulting from the greenhouse gases already emitted are expected to continue for years to come.
@Zixu Wang in Hong Kong and Li you in Shanghai contributed reporting.