Tens of thousands of people were evacuated to safer areas by Monday as torrential rains brought flood risks to a region in southwest China that has been ravaged by a heat wave and drought for most of the summer.
Heavy rain was forecast for parts of Sichuan and Chongqing provinces until at least Tuesday. Chongqing, a megacity in a hilly area that also monitors the surrounding mountains and landscapes, 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. A village under the jurisdiction of Guangyuan City recorded 18.8 centimeters (7.4 inches) of rain. The city was one of the two most affected by the drought in Sichuan.
The weather shift brought some relief from the heat, and the factories in Sichuan were able to be fully supplied with electricity again after two weeks of restrictions due to reduced hydropower capacity.
The rain was meant to help farmers whose rice, hot peppers and other crops withered during an extended drought that reduced the community’s reservoirs to mostly cracked earth.
Temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in what meteorologists called the strongest heat wave in China since records began in 1961.
Power supply in Sichuan for commercial and industrial purposes “has been fully restored,” CCTV said on its website. Household demand for air conditioners declined as temperatures dropped and precipitation began to replenish hydropower reservoirs.
Hydropower generation in the province increased by 9.5% from its low point, the state broadcaster reported. The daily electricity consumption of households fell by 28% from a peak of 473 to 340 million kilowatt-hours, the report quoted Zhao Hong, marketing director of the Sichuan subsidiary of State Grid.
”The contradiction between electricity supply and demand in Sichuan will essentially dissolve in the next three days,” Zhao was quoted as saying.
The decline in hydropower production prompted utilities in Sichuan to step up the use of coal-fired power plants and temporarily scale back efforts to reduce carbon and other emissions.
According to Caixin, a Chinese business news magazine, the share of electricity in Sichuan that comes from coal has increased from 10% to 25%, with 67 power plants at full capacity.
Sichuan is generally regarded as a clean energy success story in China and gets 80% of its electricity from hydropower.