Heatwaves hammer millions in China's Yangtze River basin

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Searing heatwaves swept across China’s vast Yangtze River basin on Wednesday, hammering densely populated megacities from the country's commercial hub Shanghai on the coast to Chengdu deep in the country's heartlands.

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More than 90 red alerts, the most severe in a three-rung warning system, were active across China as of 2:30 p.m. (0630 GMT), most of which in the Yangtze basin, which spans nearly 2,000 km).

Shanghai issued its second red alert in four days, warning of temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Construction and other outdoor activities are to be reduced or even halted under a red alert.

China is gearing up for a summer of extremes this year, from scorching heatwaves to prolonged and heavy downpours. Cities south of the Yangtze River particularly have been hit by both intense heat and record-breaking precipitation.

“This morning, I got up early to do some chores and I got all sweaty even with the air-conditioning on,” said a resident of Nanjing, a city of over nine million people near Shanghai.

“The temperature these days are between 30 and 40 degrees, but you feel like it's 50 degrees out there,” said the 47-year-old, declining to be named.

The hashtag #Heatstroke was trending on social media with 2.45 million views on the Weibo of discussions ranging from people being admitted to hospital to the detrimental effects of long-term heat exposure.

In Chengdu, capital of southwestern Sichuan province, a scheduled outage and upgrade of its grid the week coincided with the warm weather, sparking loud protests from some of its 21 million residents on social media.

“This is a large-scale blackout,” said a netizen on the popular Twitter-like microblog Weibo.

“Residents can’t be guaranteed their power supply. No one is doing anything about it.”

In the city of Yanjin, also in China’s southwest, temperatures reached 44 degrees Celsius on Monday, the highest since recording-keeping started in 1959, state television reported on late Tuesday.

The heatwaves were also starting to return to central China after a bout of rainy weather interrupted a spell of hot weather since June.

In central Henan province, train maintenance workers were cleaning and checking air-conditioners on top of trains that pass through its capital Zhengzhou, a transportation hub in central China.

Temperature in parts of Henan reached 41 degrees Celsius recently.

For Wang Mian, a train maintenance worker, the highest temperature that he had experienced while on the roof of a train was 79 degrees Celsius.

“Up here, it is very hot, it is like a food steamer,” Wang told state television.

“Our clothes are wet every day. Sometimes they never dry.”

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