Millions of residents in China’s south-western Sichuan province have been hit with rolling power cuts amid a severe heatwave and drought. In the city of Dazhou, home to some 5.4 million people, blackouts are lasting up to three hours, local media report.
They say factories in the province have been forced to cut production or halt work as part of emergency measures to redirect power supplies to households. Hydropower reservoirs are currently down by as much as half, officials say. Temperatures across Sichuan and neighbouring provinces have exceeded 40C (104 F) in recent days.
As a result, electricity demand for air conditioning in offices and households surged, putting power companies under extreme pressure. The Yangtze River – Asia’s longest waterway – is now at record low levels. In some stretches, there has been less than half the usual rainfall.
In the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, the river is the lowest it has been at this time of year since records began in 1865.
Drinking supplies for hundreds of millions of people have not yet been affected – but there is a shortage of water to irrigate crops.