Heavy rain brings floods risk to China’s drought-hit areas

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Drought; mud; rain

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated to safer areas as heavy rain brought the risk of flooding to a region of south-west China that for most of the summer has been devastated by a heatwave and drought.

Heavy rain was forecast for parts of Sichuan and Chongqing provinces until at least Tuesday.

Chongqing, a megacity built in a hilly area and which also overlooks the surrounding mountains and countryside, issued a flash flood warning for both days.

Authorities have moved 61,000 people in Sichuan to safer places since Sunday evening as heavy rain fell overnight, state broadcaster CCTV said on Monday.

One village under the jurisdiction of Guangyuan city recorded 7.4in (18.8cm) of rain. The city was one of the two in Sichuan most affected by the drought.

The change in the weather brought some relief from the heat, and full power was restored for factories in Sichuan after two weeks of restrictions stemming from reduced hydropower output.

The rain should help farmers whose rice, peppers and other crops were withering during an extended drought which reduced community reservoirs to mostly cracked earth.

Temperatures topped 40C (104F) in what meteorologists called the strongest heatwave in China since record-keeping began in 1961.

Power in Sichuan for commercial and industrial use “has been fully restored”, CCTV said on its website. Household demand for air-conditioning declined as temperatures moderated and the rain was starting to replenish hydroelectric reservoirs.

Hydropower generation in the province was up 9.5% from its low point, the state broadcaster reported. Daily power use by households declined by 28% from a peak of 473 to 340 million kilowatt hours, the report said, citing Zhao Hong, marketing director for State Grid’s Sichuan subsidiary.

“The contradiction between power supply and demand in Sichuan will be basically resolved in the next three days,” Mr Zhao was quoted as saying.

The falling hydropower production prompted Sichuan utilities to step up the use of coal-fired power plants, temporarily setting back efforts to reduce carbon and other emissions.

The share of power in Sichuan that comes from coal has jumped to 25% from 10% with 67 generating stations running at full capacity, according to Caixin, a Chinese business news magazine.

Sichuan is usually seen as a clean power success story in China, getting 80% of its power from hydro.

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