Chinese authorities have declared a yellow alert as the country continues to be hit by a persistent drought following weeks of high temperatures that have dried up parts of the Yangtze river, it was announced. On Beijing's scale of alerts, yellow is two notches below the most severe warning.
The crisis has caused damage to several crops and also limited the amount of drinking water available in some rural communities as up to 66 rivers in 34 counties in southwest China have dried up as rainfall is down 60% this year compared to seasonal standards.
China's National Meteorological Center forecast is anything but encouraging in this regard. Experts predicted that the current heat wave would only begin to subside on August 26.
According to the Chinese Ministry of Emergencies, high temperatures in July caused direct economic losses of 2.73 billion yuan (US$ 400 million) and affected 5.5 million people.
Meanwhile, the country's top water resources agency said in a statement Wednesday that the drought across the Yangtze River basin was adversely affecting the drinking water security of rural people and livestock, and crop growth.
This unusual drought in parts of central China, accompanied by an unprecedented heat wave, has led to the suspension of activity in many factories due to increased power demand.
China has resorted to artificial rains to cope with the unprecedented drought. In the provinces of Hubei and Hunan cloud chasers are used to cause rain with rockets that pour condensing substances such as silver iodide into the clouds, which accelerates rainfall.
It is not so easy to artificially increase rainfall, as we have been ready since July 19 to 'fire the cannon' when the time comes, Yu Xiaoyao, head of the Taoyuan County meteorological bureau, was quoted by the Hunan Daily as saying. The best artificial rain requires proper clouds in the sky, with layers that are 2 to 3 kilometers thick, he added.