Melted shoes, cooked shrimp, and dried-up rivers: China’s record heat wave and drought in pictures and video

Politics & Current Affairs

Since early July, much of China has been in the grip of a historic heat wave that has emptied rivers, forced cities to dim lights, and left people desperately searching for ways to cool down. This is what it looks like.

A villager walks past a charred field that was destroyed by a brush fire during a drought in Nanchang city, Jiangxi province. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Record-high temperatures and dry weather have been ravaging a vast swath of southern and central China in recent weeks. The persistent, extreme heat wave — which has been unrivaled in China since the start of modern record-keeping in the country — has dried up bodies of water, damaged crops, prompted power cuts which are choking up global supply chains, sparked wildfires, and more. 

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Gathered below are recent images, videos, and social media posts illustrating the severity of the searing heat wave.

A bag of live shrimp can be seen getting cooked as a woman carries them home from a supermarket in Xinyang, Henan Province, where the local temperature hit 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 degrees Fahrenheit) that day, in a video that has been making the rounds on Chinese social media.

Danson Cheong, a Beijing-based correspondent for The Straits Times, had to buy a new pair of sneakers after sweltering temperatures melted the soles of his old shoes in Chongqing, one of the hardest-hit Chinese cities by the heat wave.

Image from REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Dwindling water levels in the Yangtze River near the Foyeliang island in Chongqing have left a once-submerged Buddhist statue exposed. 

Image from REUTERS/Thomas Peter

A woman in a wedding dress walks on the dried-up riverbed of the Jialing River, a tributary of the Yangtze, that was approaching record-low water levels in Chongqing.

Image from REUTERS/Thomas Peter

A chain that holds a boat jetty lies exposed on the bone-dry riverbed of the Jialing River in Chongqing.

Image from Weibo

Passengers in a subway car in Chongqing sweat in the gloom, after metro stations were ordered to dim lights and adjust temperature systems on platforms and trains to save electricity.

Image from Douyin

The heat in Chongqing was so intense that roads started to melt and the ground became sticky. 

Image from Xiaohongshu

In Chongqing, the Forbidden City Cultural Relics Museum had to close for restoration after the roof of the building melted, with traditional Chinese tiles disintegrating as the heat dissolved the underlying tar. 

Image from Douyin

Heat from the sun burned holes in curtains of a high-rise apartment in Chongqing. “I’m glad that it didn’t start a fire,” the apartment owner wrote on Douyin.

Image from REUTERS/Aly Song

People walk on a dried-up bed of a reservoir amid hot temperatures in Changxing, Zhejiang Province. 

Image from REUTERS/Aly Song

Cracked and dry earth is seen in what was the bed of a reservoir in Changxing, as the city experiences one of its worst droughts in history. 

Image from REUTERS/Thomas Peter

A villager attempts to put out a brush fire with a mop during a drought in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province. 

Image from REUTERS/Thomas Peter

A farmer in Nanchang stands in front of a “No swimming” sign at what used to be a village pond.

Image from cnsphoto via REUTERS

A firefighter puts out a wildfire that broke out in a forest amid hot temperatures in Luzhou, Sichuan Province.

Image from the Beijing Youth Daily

Billboards went dark on Chunxi Road Pedestrian Street in Chengdu, one of the most popular shopping areas in the city, where power-saving measures have been introduced. 

Waiters at a hotpot restaurant in Chengdu used fans to cool down customers during a sudden power cut. 

Left without air-conditioning, a company in Sichuan erected large blocks of ice in its office to keep employees cool.

Watch the video on Douyin.

Pedestrians in Hefei, Anhui Province, poured a bucket of cool water over a pet dog suffering from heatstroke on the streets.