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From record rainfall to scorching heatwave, extreme weather conditions grapple China

Record rains in the southern part of China have forced millions of people to relocate even as the country’s north is experiencing its worst heatwave in decades. The country is witnessing the dual impact of climate change.

China is experiencing devastation since summer began. Floods have wreaked havoc in China as towns and farmlands are inundated and roads are buried by landslides. On the other hand, Covid workers are collapsing from heatstroke.

Dozens of people have been killed, millions have been displaced and economy is suffering loss since the rainy season started in May, bringing severe flooding and landslides in south China. The rainfall broke historical records in coastal Fujian province, and parts of Guangdong and Guangxi provinces in June.

Meanwhile, northern China started witnessing a heatwave and recorded temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius. About 64 per cent of the country’s population has been affected.

Residents spend their time in an air-raid shelter to escape summer heat amid a heatwave warning in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China July 12, 2022. (Photo: Reuters)

Scientists have time and again warned that the climate crisis would amplify extreme weather, and now, China is reeling under its impact.In recent weeks, a total of 71 national weather stations across China have logged temperatures that smashed records, reported CNN. Four cities — three in the central province of Hebei and one in Yunnan in the southwest — saw temperatures reaching 44 degrees Celsius, according to the National Climate Center.

The soaring heat coincided with a surge in Covid cases. The government mandated mass testing for residents, including senior citizens. Not only has it become difficult for people to stand in long queues under the scorching sun, but it has also become a dangerous task for health workers who are required to spend long hours outdoors covered head to toe in PPE kit.

A woman wearing a face mask holds an umbrella on a street amid a heatwave warning, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Shanghai, China July 13, 2022. (Photo: Reuters)

Several videos of Covid workers collapsing on the ground from heatstroke have gone viral on social media.

The heatwave has also caused power shortages in some regions and hit the country’s crop production, which might further push up the prices of food items.

According to Yao Wenguang, a Ministry of Water Resources official, it is predicted that from July to August, there will be more extreme weather events in China.

According to the China Meteorological Administration’s Blue Book on Climate Change published last year, the country is witnessing a rise in temperature faster than the global average.

Between 1951 and 2020, China’s annual average surface temperature was rising at a pace of 0.26 degrees Celsius per decade, the report said. Sea levels around China’s coastlines rose faster than the global average from 1980 to 2020, according to the report.

The extreme weather conditions have cost China about $238 billion annually, nearly three times the estimated loss suffered by India or Japan, according to a report released last year by the World Meteorological Organization.

In 2019, researchers found that compared to other countries, public concerns over global warming and climate change in China were “relatively low.”

For many citizens, the dangers of extreme weather fueled by climate change hit home last summer, when devastating floods killed around 380 people in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province.

Liu Junyan, climate and energy project leader for Greenpeace East Asia, said the Zhengzhou flooding was a wake-up call for the Chinese government and public, reported CNN.

Since last year, many Chinese cities have improved their emergency response systems for extreme rainfall. In May, authorities suspended schools, advised residents to work from home, closed construction sites and suspended public transportation following alerts for torrential rains.

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