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China cuts power to factories, homes amid drought and heat wave

The shutdowns add to economic strains at a time when President Xi Jinping is trying to extend his hold on power.
A dried riverbed is exposed on Tuesday after the water level dropped in the Yangtze River in southwest China.
A dried riverbed is exposed on Tuesday after the water level dropped in the Yangtze River in southwest China. AP
/ Source: Associated Press

Factories in China’s southwest have shut down and a city imposed rolling blackouts after reservoirs to generate hydropower ran low in a worsening drought, adding to economic strains at a time when President Xi Jinping is trying to extend his hold on power.

Companies in Sichuan province including makers of solar panels, cement and urea closed or reduced production after they were ordered to ration power for up to five days, according to news reports Wednesday. That came after reservoir levels fell and power demand for air conditioning surged in scorching temperatures.

“Leave power for the people,” said an order from the provincial government dated Tuesday.

In Sichuan, which has 94 million people, water levels at hydropower reservoirs are down by as much as half this month, according to the Sichuan Provincial Department of Economics and Information Technology.

The power company in Dazhou, a city in Sichuan with 3.4 million people, imposed 2 1/2-hour power cuts this week and expanded that Wednesday to three hours, according to the Shanghai news outlet The Paper. The newspaper Securities Times said office buildings in Chengdu, the provincial capital, were told to shut off air conditioning.

Water is distributed in Luoping village on Saturday. Unusually high temperatures and a prolonged drought are affecting large swaths of China.
Water is distributed in Luoping village on Saturday. Unusually high temperatures and a prolonged drought are affecting large swaths of China.Huang Wei / AP

The shutdowns add to challenges for the ruling Communist Party as Xi, the country’s most powerful leader in decades, prepares to try to break with tradition and award himself a third five-year term as leader at a meeting in October or November.

China’s heatwave has now lasted 64 days, making it the longest since full records began in 1961, state media said on Wednesday, citing data from the National Climate Center.

On Wednesday, central China's Hubei province became the latest to announce an extensive weather modification program, deploying planes to fire silver iodide rods into the clouds to induce rainfall.

Areas across central and northern China ordered emergency measures to ensure drinking water supplies after summer rain was as little as half normal levels. The official Xinhua News Agency said firetrucks carried water to two dry villages near Chongqing in the southwest.

Hundreds of thousands of acres of crops across central and northern China have wilted due to lack of water and high temperatures, according to the government. Some areas have reported the summer growing season a failure.

The weather agency has warned temperatures in some areas could spike to 104 Fahrenheit.

In Sichuan, which has 94 million people, water levels at hydropower reservoirs are down by as much as half this month, according to the Sichuan Provincial Department of Economics and Information Technology.

The government has allocated 280 million yuan ($41 million) for drought relief in Hebei and Shanxi provinces and the Inner Mongolia region in the north and Liaoning province in the northeast, according to Xinhua.