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Power outages and sleepless nights in China’s record heatwave – Science-Environment News – Report by AFR

The lights are out along a once-busy boulevard in a tourist spot at the epicenter of China’s hottest summer on record as people flee the searing heat engulfing the country’s southwest.

The region is suffering its longest uninterrupted period of high temperatures on record more than 60 years ago, with scientists warning such hot and dry spells will worsen as climate change warms the planet.

Temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) have forced authorities to impose blackouts to deal with the surge in electricity demand, caused in part by people turning up the air conditioning.

On the streets of Chongqing, a city of 30 million, locals queue for mandatory Covid tests in the early hours to avoid long queues in the scorching heat of the day.

One woman told AFP she took refuge in a local ballroom during the day – a place that’s particularly busy as elderly people seek shelter from the sun and spend their hours dancing in dim lights.

Power shortages have now forced locals to reduce their use of air conditioning, making life a struggle.

“Ever since the heat wave, I’ve been too hot to sleep every night and the heat wakes me up every morning,” Xu Jinxin, a 20-year-old college student, told AFP.

“Because of the power shortage, we don’t leave the air conditioning on all day,” he said.

“We try to use less and save more, try to use fans when we can and life goes on with some perseverance.”

At Chongqing’s most popular tourist spot on the Jialing River, lights have been turned off to save electricity and the once-busy street has gone silent.

Locals bathe in the water that remains in the dry riverbed and pose for photos.

The Jialing is a tributary of the mighty Yangtze River – a major hub for trade in southwest China that is now drying up, with water flow on its main trunk some 50 percent lower than the average for the past five years.

Local businesses – already badly hit by two years of Covid-19 – are suffering. A bar worker said the power shortage has affected nightlife.

“Most of the equipment such as the ice machine and the lighting in the bar are high-power machines, and the recent power shortage has forced the bar to shut down,” Liu, a singer, told AFP.

“It also applies to my work and my life.”

Even the taps are running hot.

“In previous summers, when we turned on the faucet, there might be hot water for a minute and then cool water,” said Zhang, a 25-year-old woman, who did not give her first name.

“This year, even after two, three minutes, it still feels like boiling water.”

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