Cave restaurants and standing on ice buckets: How China’s citizens are tackling extreme heat

·3-min read

From eating in a restaurant 30m underground to standing in ice buckets, Chinese citizens are adopting drastic and innovative measures to combat the ongoing heatwave as several regions continue to see severe temperatures shooting beyond 40C.

Prolonged heatwaves this year has led to China’s hottest and driest period since temperature and rainfall records began being kept in 1961, according to the government.

Drought conditions have also worsened over the weeks with key rivers seeing water levels falling to record lows and reduced production of hydroelectricity in the face of a record power demand, that also led to a power crisis.

As tough rules to save power are enforced, citizens have either been switching off their air conditioners or living without electricity, leading to them trying to find ways that can help them stay cool outside their homes.

One such place that has emerged in recent weeks is a “cave” restaurant in Chongqing, transformed from an old bomb shelter. Citizens are now dining at the restaurant 30m underground to save themselves from the scorching sun.

The loss of water flow to hydropower systems in Sichuan has sparked what authorities have described as a “grave situation”.

Regions dependent on hydroelectricity are asking offices and factories to restrict power usage, resulting is losses and even businesses shutting down.

Residents in Sichuan are asked to keep their air conditioners above 26C while railways stations and public places are dimming their lights. China’s iconic Bund district also switched off decorative lights on Monday and Tuesday to conserve power.

Sales for traditional measures like water bottles, ice creams and blocks of ice are already up in China. Many locals have also been spotted resting inside malls and on massage chairs to keep cool.

People rest on massage chairs inside a mall as they keep cool and avoid scorching outdoor temperatures in China's southwestern city of Chongqing (Getty Images)
People rest on massage chairs inside a mall as they keep cool and avoid scorching outdoor temperatures in China's southwestern city of Chongqing (Getty Images)

Droughts have also triggered a water shortage in certain areas, especially as the crucial Yangtze river is drying, forcing authorities to rush to provide drinking water to residents. In Hunan province, firefighting trucks are being used to supply water.

Firefighters delivering water to residents due to a shortage amid heatwave conditions, in Loudi in China’s central Hunan province (AFP via Getty Images)
Firefighters delivering water to residents due to a shortage amid heatwave conditions, in Loudi in China’s central Hunan province (AFP via Getty Images)

In many regions, blocks of ice are being used to get respite from heat with people keeping them next to their office desks and zookeepers providing them to pandas.

A panda cools off over a block of ice during hot weather at a zoo in Guangzhou (Getty Images)
A panda cools off over a block of ice during hot weather at a zoo in Guangzhou (Getty Images)

While multiple provinces have announced power cuts, some are attempting to artificially induce rainfall with cloud-seeding.

The drought and heat have also wilted crops and the government is reportedly struggling to find ways to protect the autumn grain harvest, which is 75 per cent of China’s annual total.

Meanwhile, large areas of China have also been hit with flash flooding which has killed dozens of people in the last few weeks. Almost half a million people have been displaced and damage has run to £213m.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN’s climate science body, has found that China is one of the countries which will be hit hardest by the worsening climate crisis.

Surface air temperature has increased across Asia over the past 100 years with many countries including neighbouring India now suffering record-breaking extreme events like heatwaves, floods and droughts.