China heat wave: It's so hot, manhole covers cook food

03.08.2013 01:38

The heat wave -- the worst in at least 140
years in some parts -- has left dozens of
people dead and pushed thermometers above
40 degrees C (104 F) in at least 40 cities and
counties, mostly in the south and east.
Authorities for the first time have declared
the heat a "level 2" weather emergency-- a
label normally invoked for typhoons and
"It is just hot! Like in a food steamer!" 17-
year-old student Xu Sichen said outside the
doors of a shopping mall in the southern
financial hub of Shanghai while her friend He
Jiali, also 17, complained that her mobile
phone had in recent days turned into a
"I'm so worried that the phone will explode
while I'm using it," he said.
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Extreme heat began hitting Shanghai and
several eastern and southern provinces in
early July and is expected to grip much
of China through mid-August.
Shanghai set its record high temperature of
40.6 C (105 F) on July 26, and
Thursday's heat marked the city's 28th day
above 35 C. At least 10 people died
of heat stroke in the city over the past
month, including a 64-year-old Taiwanese
sailor, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Climate scientists usually caution that they
can't attribute a single weather event like
the Chinese heat wave to man-made global
warming. But "human-caused warming sure
ups the odds of heat waves like this one,"
said Jonathan Overpeck of the University of
Arizona. The Chinese heat wave "gives a very
real face to what global warming is all
about," he wrote in an email.
"This is the future. Get used to it," Andrew
Dressler of Texas A&M University told The
Associated Press by email. "You often hear
people say, 'Oh, we'll just adapt to the
changing climate.' It turns out that that's a
lot harder than it sounds, as the people
in China are finding out now."
Wu Guiyun, 50, who has a part-time job
making food deliveries in Shanghai, said she
has been trying to linger inside air-
conditioned offices for as long as possible
whenever she brings in a takeout order.
Outside, she said: "It's so hot that I can
hardly breathe."
The highest temperature overall was
recorded in the eastern city of Fenghua,
which recorded its historic high of 42.7
degrees (108.9 F) on July 24.
On Tuesday, the director of
the China Meteorological Administration
activated a "level 2" emergency response to
the persistent heat wave. This level requires
around-the-clock staffing, the establishment
of an emergency command center and
frequent briefings.
Some Chinese in heat-stricken cities have
been cooking shrimps, eggs and bacon in
skillets placed directly on manhole covers or
on road pavement that has in some
cases heated up to 60 degrees C (140 F).
In one photo displayed prominently in
the China Daily newspaper, a boy tended to
shrimps and an egg in a pan over a manhole
cover in eastern Chinese city of Jinan.
In the port city of Ningbo in Zhejiang
province, glass has cracked in the heat,
vehicles have self-combusted, and a highway
billboard caught fire by itself, sending up
black smoke in the air, according
to China Central Television. The broadcaster
said the heat might have shorted an electrical
circuit on the billboard.
In the southern province of Hunan, a
housewife grabbed several eggs stored at
room temperature only to find half-hatched
chicks, state media reported.
A joke making the rounds: The only
difference between me and barbequed meat
is a little bit of cumin.