China issues first ever heat alert as southeast swelters

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 8:12am

One of the worst heatwaves in recorded Chinese history is roasting eastern and southern parts of the country, prompting the issuing of the first "level-two" national emergency alert for inclement weather.

More than 10 people died from heat effects in Shanghai alone as the commercial hub saw its hottest July in at least 140 years, Xinhua reported, citing a local health official.

With 24 days of temperatures over 35 degrees, it was the city's hottest July since 1873, according to the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau. Shanghai was not one of the cities to top 40 degrees on Tuesday, but the temperature hit an all-time high of 40.6 degrees on Friday.

"It should be a record since Shanghai started recording weather conditions," the official, Wu Rui , told Xinhua.

Temperatures in parts of Zhejiang , Hunan and Sichuan provinces reached 40 degrees yesterday, and those in parts of Jiangsu , Zhejiang, Hunan, Hubei and Chongqing would reach the same level today, according to the China Meteorological Administration. The agency said 43 southern cities and counties had seen temperatures exceed 40 degrees in July.

The level-two warning - the highest for heat-related weather conditions - applies to nine provinces and municipalities: Anhui , Jiangsu, Hunan, Hubei, Zhejiang, Jiangxi , Fujian , Shanghai and Chongqing.

The warning may be issued only after two provincial areas register temperatures of at least 37 degrees for two days, with no relief seen for the following two days. The system is part of an emergency plan implemented in 2010.

Meteorologists also warned that some areas south of the Yangtze River, including Chongqing, could see the heat surpass 35 degrees every day until August 8, and they advised people in the region to avoid outdoor activities whenever possible and to take necessary measures to stay cool.

Media outlets have been filled with stories illustrating just how hot it has been. China News Service reported medical staff were unable to use a thermometer to determine the temperature of a man who died of heatstroke after collapsing in Shaoxing , Zhejiang . Photos have also circulated online showing various foods and objects being fried under the sun's scorching rays, or cooking on pavements.

Xinhua cited experts as saying that a subtropical pressure system and a lack of rain were to blame for the heatwave.

Drought has also become a problem. In Hunan, 33 counties and cities are struggling to cope with severe drought as rainfall was only about 30 per cent of the normal level in July. And 12.2 million people in mountainous areas of Guizhou in the southwest have been affected by a lack of rainfall, leaving about two million people short of drinking water, Xinhua reported.