SHANGHAI: China has issued its first national drought alert of the year as authorities battle forest fires and mobilise specialist teams to protect crops from scorching temperatures across the Yangtze river basin.
The national “yellow alert”, issued late on Thursday (Aug 18), comes after regions from Sichuan in the southwest to Shanghai in the Yangtze delta have experienced weeks of extreme heat, with government officials repeatedly citing global climate change as the cause. The alert is two notches short of the most serious warning on Beijing’s scale.
In one of the Yangtze’s important flood basins in central China’s Jiangxi province, the Poyang Lake has now shrunk to a quarter of its normal size for this time of year, state news agency Xinhua said on Thursday.
As many as 66 rivers across 34 counties in the southwestern region of Chongqing have dried up, state broadcaster CCTV said on Friday.
Rainfall in Chongqing this year is down 60 per cent compared to the seasonal norm, and the soil in several districts is severely short of moisture, CCTV said, citing local government data.
The district of Beibei, north of Chongqing’s urban centre, saw temperatures hit 45 degrees Celsius on Thursday, according to China’s weather bureau.
Chongqing accounted for six of the 10 hottest locations in the country on Friday morning, with temperatures in the district of Bishan already approaching 39 degrees Celsius. Shanghai was already at 37 degrees Celsius.
The Chongqing region’s infrastructure and emergency services have come under increasing strain, with firefighters on high alert as mountain and forest blazes erupted across the region. State media also reported an increase in cases of heatstroke.