China Reels From Floods and a Bruising Heat Wave

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China and several other Asia Pacific countries were reeling from monsoonal floods and stultifying temperatures on Wednesday, the latest disruptions in what forecasters say could be a long summer and autumn of extreme weather around the world.

The authorities in China said on Wednesday that 15 people had died and four others were missing as a result of flooding in the sprawling southwestern city of Chongqing, according to the state-run news media.

In another sign of how bad the flooding was in China, news footage showed rescuers in the central province of Henan freeing two people from the roof of a car that had been caught in a rushing river. A fire brigade sent them life jackets with a drone and lifted them to safety with a crane.

More bad weather may be on the way, in China and beyond. The World Meteorological Organization said on Tuesday that El Niño, a cyclical climate pattern that warms ocean surface temperatures in parts of the Pacific Ocean, had formed for the first time in seven years. The agency said it would likely combine with human-caused warming to fuel more heat waves and disruptive weather worldwide in the second half of this year.

Summer typically brings tremendous heat to the Asia Pacific region, plus sheets of rain linked to the annual monsoon. But this season’s weather has already been especially intense.

Notably, about 20 cities in China recorded flooding this week, and many suffered through 100-plus-degree-Fahrenheit days. For weeks before the latest extreme weather kicked in, unusually heavy floods and an atypically early heat wave had been straining harvests and making life difficult.

The authorities in China said on Wednesday that 11 of the country’s 31 provincial governments were bracing for more heavy rains over the next three days. More than 20,000 people had already been displaced as a result of flooding that began over the weekend, according to forecasts and local news reports.

In the southwestern Chinese municipality of Chongqing, footage this week showed part of a multistory building toppling into an adjacent river under the force of fast-moving currents.

China wasn’t the only country reporting damages from heavy flooding. In southwestern Japan, heavy rain over the weekend inundated homes and left at least one person dead. A number of prefectures there were still under storm surge warnings or advisories as of Wednesday.

And in Cambodia, officials in Phnom Penh, the capital, said that heavy rainfall there on Monday — about six inches — was the most the city had received in three years.

Dan Sophan, 43, said on Wednesday that the volleyball courts he owns in Phnom Penh were still under nearly two feet of standing water.

“The sewage pipes are small,” he said.

At the same time, much of the region was baking in sweltering temperatures.

The temperature in Henan and other Chinese regions, including around Beijing, the capital, was expected to hit 104 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday. Beijing was nearly there as of 3:30 p.m. local time.

Some parts of Taiwan, the island south of the Chinese mainland, were expecting temperatures of 106 degrees on Thursday and Friday, according to its Central Weather Bureau.

While attributing a single heat wave to climate change requires analysis, scientists have no doubt that heat waves around the world are becoming hotter, more frequent and longer lasting.

In the United States, the 2018 National Climate Assessment noted that the number of hot days was increasing, and that the frequency of heat waves in the country had jumped to six per year by the 2010s from an average of two per year in the 1960s.

The World Meteorological Agency said on Tuesday that while the El Niño phenomenon occurs every two to seven years on average, “it takes place in the context of a climate changed by human activities.” The agency also noted that the last El Niño year, 2016, remains the warmest on record because of a “double whammy” of El Niño and human-induced warming.

Sun Narin contributed reporting.


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