As elsewhere in the world, the toll has fallen on some of the most vulnerable, including the poor and the elderly. Several heat-related deaths have been recorded, including construction or factory workers. Videos on social media show that frontline medical workers, in full body protection, continue to try to eradicate the coronavirus, overwhelmed by the high temperatures.
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The number of heat-related deaths in China more than quadrupled between 1990 and 2019, to 26,800 in 2019, according to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet. Researchers have predicted that the number could more than double if global temperatures rise by 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, noting that China’s rapidly aging population would be particularly at risk.
Some of the hottest temperatures of recent times have been recorded in southeastern China, in the coastal province of Zhejiang. On Tuesday, the temperature in one city there, Lishui, reached nearly 108 degrees. A hospital in Zhejiang told state media reporters that it took in patients with heat stroke on a daily basis. At least one man, a factory worker, died earlier this month after multiple organ failure.
But most of the country is frying. In the far west of the Xinjiang region, local officials warned last week that melting snow and ice from mountainous areas would increase the risk of dam failure and that it had already caused flash flooding and mudslides. Earlier this month, an official at the National Meteorological Center said the heat can drain moisture from the ground in Gansu and Shaanxi provinces, harming corn and cotton crops and damaging rice crops in the Yangtze River basin.