Chinese seek shelter underground as heatwave scorches parts of Europe, US and Asia – iNews

It’s not just Britons sweltering under a heatwave, with soaring temperatures across Europe, China and the US forcing some underground to beat the heat as wildfires rage elsewhere.
In Europe, people flocked to beaches to keep cool as firefighters battled in parts of France, Spain, Croatia and Portugal where temperatures pushed into the mid-40s in some parts of the continent in the second major heatwave in as many months.
In France’s southwestern Gironde region, 11,300 people have been evacuated since the wildfires broke out around Dune du Pilat and Landiras. Some 7,350 hectares (18,000 acres) of land have been burnt, and authorities said the fires had not yet been stabilised.
While temperatures dipped a little in Portugal, they still topped 40 degrees in some places with five districts on red alert for extreme weather and more than 1,000 firefighters tackling 13 wildfires, authorities said. The country recorded 238 excess deaths due to heat in a “particularly worrying” week, health minister, Marta Temido, said.
Near Pombal, helicopters dropped water on flames ripping through a hillside attacked with highly flammable pine and eucalyptus trees.
“When it gets to the eucalyptus it’s like an explosion,” Antonio, an elderly resident of the nearby village of Gesteira, said.
Spain’s environment ministry said there were 17 wildfires across the country. Four villages were evacuated yesterday near the Portugese border and flames are now threatening a 16th century monastery and a national park. Several hundred people have been evacuated since the fires started and 7,500 hectares of forest have been destroyed.
In Catalonia in the northeast, authorities suspended camping and sporting activities in around 275 towns and villages to prevent fire risks and restricted farm work involving machinery. Areas of Galicia and Extremadura remained on extreme alert for temperatures expected to touch 44 C (111 F). In Madrid, residents and tourists gulped down ice cream and took to the shade, while zookeepers fed animals frozen popsicles made from fruit, beef and fish.
On Croatia’s Adriatic Coast troops were called to help firefighters battle blazes around Zadar and Sibenek. Arndt Dreste, 55, had moved to the village of Raslina, near Sibenik, this year, after selling his property in Germany. His house was severely damaged by the fire.
“I bought this house in January … I (am) cut off from Germany and this is my life here … it was here,” he said, showing the charred walls of his home.
Italy is also suffering drought conditions with the Po River at its lowest level in 70 years in a move that could lead to a price rises for famous staples such as olive oil, pasta and risotto rice.
Growers warned of a significant reduction in crop yields earlier this week and a state of emergency has been declared in five northern regions with several municipalities including Verona and Pisa announcing water rationing. More than 100 towns in the Po Valley are also rationing water.
Some Europeans welcomed the heat, however. In Catania, on the east coast of Italy’s Sicily, tourists and locals thronged cafes to eat granita, a frozen dessert, and jumped into the sea to cool off.
“The heat here is a bit tiring, but I think it’s the least tiring thing we face this year, I put up with it gladly,” said Catania resident Pierpaola.
The World Meteorological Organisation said on Friday the heatwave would trap atmospheric pollutants, degrading the air quality, especially in towns and cities.
“The stable and stagnant atmosphere acts as a lid to trap atmospheric pollutants, including particulate matter,” Lorenzo Labrador, WMO scientific officer, told a Geneva press briefing.
“These result in a degradation of air quality and adverse health effects, particularly for vulnerable people.”
Beyond Europe, tens of millions of people in China have been battling to keep cool, taking to underground air raid shelters and strapping ice blocks to their head as local power grids strain under the demand.
In Shanghai, an image of two Covid testers wearing full hazmat suits with ice blocks strapped to their head went viral. Construction work was banned in the city while sales of chilled melon and crayfish soared. At a wildlife park in the city animals munched through eight tonnes of ice each day.
This week more than 90 red alerts have been activated across the country as millions of people in a 1200 mile stretch of the mainly Yangtze basin area sweated it out in temperatures exceeding 40 degrees.
“This year, the heat has arrived a little earlier than before,” said Shanghai resident Zhu Daren, 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 air-conditioning when you get home and put on some sunscreen when you go out.”
In Jiangxi province a road buckled earlier this week under the heat, while in Nanjing underground air raid shelters equipped with wifi, books, water and microwave ovens were opened up for residents to stay cool. In the city of Congquing, the roof of a museum melted and slid to the ground, while sanitation trucks were redeployed to spray water and keep the roads cool.
In Henan, railway workers assigned to check air conditioners on top of trains sweltered in heat that reached 79 degrees, according to one. Wang Mian told state television it was like being “in a food steamer”
“Our clothes are wet every day. Sometimes they never dry,” he said.
In the US, huge swathes of the south, west and midwest are braced for extreme temperatures past 40 degrees, covering an area home to 22.8m people.
Already this week south-west and central areas have seen records broken in cities like Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Arkansas, due to a “heat dome” of high pressure that has exacerbated an already hot summer. Texans have been urged to conserve energy as the power grid struggles to cope.
Meanwhile crews are still battling the Washburn fire that has shut down part of the Yosemite National Park and is now spreading into the Sierra National forest causing evacuations and road closures. The fire, which started spreading near the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias home to the 3000 year old grizzly giant, has burned 4,375 acres. Firefighters are watering the base of the giant trees to keep them cool.
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