The “yellow” warning, issued Friday, is the third highest on China’s four-tier scale. It indicates that at least two provinces are experiencing drought-like conditions and more dry weather or droughts are expected.
The Chinese meteorological agency said on Friday that at least 244 cities across the country could see temperatures rise above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), while another 407 could see the mercury rise to more than 37C (98F). Forecasters expect the heat wave to continue for another week, while little rain and persistent drought will occur for the next three days.
According to the Ministry of Water Resources, water supplies were affected by drought for about 830,000 people in six provinces on Wednesday. More than 300,000 people are experiencing temporary difficulties even accessing drinking water. It is a significant number of people affected, but a fraction of China’s 1.4 billion population.
Provinces in southern and central China – especially those along the Yangtze River, such as Jiangsu, Hubei and Sichuan – are the most affected. Local officials have been advised to conserve water resources for domestic purposes and reduce its use in agriculture, commerce and industry. Authorities are also trying to sow clouds to make it rain.
The drought has affected more than 2 million hectares of farmland in six provinces, a Water Ministry official said Wednesday.
The extreme heat has led to a spike in demand for air conditioning in offices and homes, putting pressure on the electricity grid. The drought has also lowered river water levels, reducing the amount of electricity produced by hydroelectric plants.
Sichuan, a province of 84 million inhabitants, has been plagued by extreme heat and drought since July. On Wednesday, Sichuan authorities ordered factories to close for six days to alleviate heat-related power shortages.
Experts fear power rationing in a major semiconductor and solar panel manufacturing hub could affect some of the world’s largest electronics companies, including Intel and Foxconn.