BEIJING: China's commercial capital of Shanghai was among dozens of cities baking in scorching temperatures as unusually hot weather buckled roads, popped roof tiles, and drove people to seek the cool in raid shelters underground.
By 3pm on Tuesday (Jul 12), 86 cities had issued red alerts, the highest in a three-tier warning system, warning of temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius in the next 24 hours. Construction and other outdoor work are to be halted.
Shanghai, still fighting sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks, warned its 25 million residents to prepare for hot weather this week. Since record-keeping began in 1873, Shanghai only had 15 days with temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius.
Vendors reported surging sales of ice cream, melons and crayfish chilled in liquor, a popular summertime dish. At a sprawling Shanghai wildlife park, eight tonnes of ice are used each day to keep lions, pandas and other animals cool.
A widely shared photo on social media showed one COVID-19 tester in a full-body hazmat suit hugging a 1m tall block of ice by the road.
"This year, the heat has arrived a little earlier than before," said Zhu Daren, a Shanghai resident, as her five-year-old son played at a water fountain.
"Although it is just July, I feel (the warm weather) has already reached the high point. Basically, you need to turn on the AC when you get home and put on some sunscreen when you go out."
China's summer of contrasts this year has brought havoc from heat waves and heavy rainfall in turn. Authorities citing climate change have warned of potential weather disasters from mid-July, usually the hottest and wettest time of the year.
In a town in southern Jiangxi province, a section of a road arched up at least 15cm due to the heat, state television showed.
Nanjing, one of China's three "furnaces" notorious for their searing summers, has opened up its underground air-raid shelters to residents since Sunday, with its war-time bunkers equipped with Wi-Fi, books, water dispensers and even microwave ovens. The city issued a red alert on Tuesday.
In Chongqing, the second "furnace", the roof of one of its museums literally melted, with the tiles of a traditional Chinese roof popping as the heat dissolved the underlying tar. The city raised a red alert on Monday.
Chongqing has also deployed sanitation water-spraying trucks to keep its roads cool.
This week, high temperatures, humidity and ultraviolet radiation are also forecast to envelop the central city of Wuhan, the third furnace, as it is called.