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Shanghai's skyline will be dark for 2 days due to power shortages caused by heat wave

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

China is having its hottest summer on record. More than 200 cities are suffering through sweltering temperatures 104 degrees and up. The heat is causing widespread power shortages, closing down factories and sparking wildfires that are terrorizing villages. NPR's Emily Feng reports.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Across China, the lights are going off. Power grids must divert energy to heat-stricken areas. That was mandated by a top Communist Party official, Han Zheng, who summoned the executives from the state power grid last week. Here's the state broadcaster summarizing that meeting.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: The power shortage is caused by China's longest ever recorded heat wave, temperatures of at least 104 degrees now lasting more than 70 days and counting. That's depleting rivers and other waterways, meaning places like southwestern Sichuan province, which is 80% dependent on hydropower for electricity, are in trouble. Sichuan's solution...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: Cut off all power to most of its factories. It's an outage they've extended from one week to two weeks. That means big multinational factories, including American semi-conductor makers Intel and Texas Instruments, will need to stop operations there. Hot weather also means a surge in power demand for air conditioning, so authorities say they must ensure residential areas have power. Other places in China are following suit. In Shanghai, authorities announced they will turn off the famous Shanghai bund skyline for two nights. In Sichuan's capital of Chengdu, the city is dimming lights on its underground metro to conserve power. And the extreme heat has created another problem.

(CROSSTALK)

FENG: The heat has turned normally humid climes bone-dry, the perfect conditions for sudden wildfires.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Chinese).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: These mountain villagers in the southeastern regions of Chongqing, a metropolis bordering Sichuan, are fleeing fires that have eaten up parched hillsides this summer. And such calamities will only get more frequent because environmental forecasts for China show its Northern Plains region could heat up so quickly by the end of the century as to be unlivable. Emily Feng, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Emily Feng is NPR's Beijing correspondent.