August 19, 2022
CHONGQING, NANJING AND HEFEI – Zookeepers, grid employees and ice makers toil as temperatures rise
An eagle that fell into the Yangtze River Delta, where local governments have issued heat alerts for several weeks, trended on Chinese social media platforms last week.
The bird, which experienced heatstroke, plummeted into the river in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province. It was taken to police after a patrolman noticed it floating on the water and retrieved the bird with a net. A veterinarian treated the eagle, which was later freed alongside the Yangtze.
Many netizens voiced sympathy for the bird, with one stating on Sina Weibo, “The poor eagle had been flying at altitude in high temperatures.” Another said, “On top of all that, it has to contend with a down coat in summer.”
A falcon had a similar experience to the eagle, but instead of falling into the Yangtze, it plunged to the ground. The bird received help from the police.
Police in Nanjing also sent three owls to Hongshan Forest Zoo for treatment. Instead of sleeping during the day, the family of owls flew to find water in high temperatures, but they all experienced heatstroke.
Chen Yuelong, technical director of the zoo’s wildlife shelter and rescue center, said many animals sent to the zoo for treatment were dehydrated due to high temperatures or poor health.
“Many of them just needed cooling, but some required medicine if they had moderate or severe heatstroke,” he said.
Chen Yuanyuan, director of the zoo’s information and education department, said the venue has come up with several ways for the animals to remain cool and avoid heatstroke.
“First, we try to lower the temperature in their living environments,” she said. “Keepers are currently starting work early to allow the animals to exercise outdoors before it gets too hot.
“When the temperature soars in the morning, the animals, including giant pandas, orangutans and gibbons, have already returned to their air-conditioned rooms.”
Chen Yuanyuan said most of the animals have lost their appetite due to the high temperatures, so the zoo has prepared more than 150 kg of watermelons and nearly 100 kg of tomatoes and cantaloupes a day for them.
The animals－herbivores and carnivores－enjoy homemade popsicles at the zoo in summer.
The popsicles for herbivores, including orangutans, are made from fruit and water. Keepers mix pieces of fruit, water and fruit puree in large plastic bottles, put them in the fridge and then remove the bottles to make the giant popsicles.
The popsicles for carnivores, such as tigers, leopards and lynxes, are made from fresh meat. The meat is chopped into rectangles before being frozen into popsicles. According to the zoo, carnivores are particularly fond of frozen rabbit meat and beef.
Chen Yuanyuan said, “Some animals love to lie on large ice cubes placed in their rooms to reduce the temperature.”
She added that the elephant hall is equipped with a giant shower system to enable the animals to bathe and play with water during the heat wave.
Around 10 am on Monday, Fang Zenghui stood under a 10 kilovolt power transmission line on a mountainside in scorching heat. His uniform was soaked in sweat.
With the temperature climbing to nearly 40 C in Yixian county, Huangshan, Anhui province, by noon, the power grid employee started the day’s work before 6 am to complete his tasks before it became too hot.
Fang, 27, whose given name literally means “to shine more brightly”, said he had been longing for rain for days. “There was finally a shower on Tuesday afternoon, but it did not last long,” he added.
Operating a drone on Monday morning, Fang checked the screen to see if there was anything wrong with the power line. Unable to hide from the sun, he also made sure he could see the drone overhead and that it was working efficiently.
Fang soon found a bird’s nest close to a power breaker on a transmission tower. He used the drone to take photos of the nest and uploaded them via a smartphone app to report the discovery.
A bird’s nest in such a position is regarded as a dangerous obstacle and has to be removed. “We cannot afford any potential collapse of the power supply,” Fang said.
With the impact of the ongoing heat wave in the region and beyond, the peak-hour electrical load of the power grid in Huangshan reached a record 498,900 kilowatts earlier this month and has continued to rise.
Fang and his colleagues climbed the tower, removed the nest and installed a bird repeller. Power transmission was uninterrupted during the entire process.
“It took about one hour from discovering the nest to getting all the work done, whereas in the past, it could take half a day,” Fang said, adding that work in remote rural areas should be carried out by at least two people due to personal safety concerns.
Fang said that four years ago, summer was also extremely hot. “To ensure safety of the power supply, I accompanied more-experienced colleagues to the mountains for patrols over many days, despite the heat,” he said.
The power company then started to deploy drones to ease some of the pressure on workers, and Fang quickly emerged as a skillful drone pilot.
As electricity facilities are commonly built in mountainous and rural areas, technicians working in such locations must always carry a medical kit containing pills to treat heatstroke and snakebite.
Working for State Grid’s Yixian branch since 2018, Fang was recently appointed a line chief responsible for power services in some areas of the county.
Yixian boasts numerous tourism attractions, such as Xidi and Hongcun villages－jointly designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In addition to patrolling and repairing high-voltage transmission lines, the technicians take shifts for week-long household services duty.
Fang said, “There will be a light show on Friday night in Xidi, but we will not be able to spare a single minute to enjoy it, as we must stay highly alert for any potential electrical failures.”
Ice in demand
With the heat wave continuing to affect many areas of China, the temperature in the Beibei district of Chongqing on Sunday reached 44.5 C, the highest nationwide that day.
The mountainous city of Chongqing in southwest China is known as one of the country’s “three stoves” because of its high summer temperatures. In recent years, the average summer temperature in Chongqing has been 37 C, but sometimes it has reached 43 C.
This year, the city has witnessed two heat waves since last month. From July 29 to Aug 12, a total of 12 districts and counties in the city－including Hechuan, Bishan and Fengdu, and some parts of the central urban area－experienced temperatures of more than 40 C for five to 11 consecutive days. The latest heat wave is expected to continue into next week.
Amid the extreme and lasting heat, demand for various types of ice has surged in the municipality.
Yu Dan, general manager of Chongqing Hua Tea Co, said, “The amount of ice used in our milk tea shops has reached 300 kilograms, a rise of about 50 percent compared with this time last year.”
He said the ice machines used by the shops are sufficient to cater to customers’ needs.
Chen Long, sales manager at Chongqing Nanji (Antarctic) Ice Making Co, which produces ice for industrial use, said, “Our company’s production line is in full operation, but the supply of ice has fallen short of demand in recent days.”
He said the market price for a block of standard industrial ice weighing 25 kg has risen from 12 yuan ($1.77) to more than 20 yuan.
“In summer, half the ice on the market is used by factories,” Chen said, adding that as air conditioners are too expensive to use in extremely large workshops such as auto parts factories, air coolers loaded with ice are used instead.
“A block of standard ice, which can last seven to eight hours, helps reduce the temperature in hot weather,” Chen said.
There is also huge demand for ice at local farmers’ markets, beverage shops and restaurants.
Mao Haihua, chairman of Chongqing Qiaobayu Catering Group, said that in midsummer customers favor cooler dishes such as sashimi, and the best way to keep such food fresh is to use enough ice cubes or ice powder.
In scorching heat on Sunday, Chongqing Meixin Wine Town, a scenic spot in the city’s Fuling district, used more than 2,000 kg of ice cubes to cool the swimming pool at its water park.
Zhang Xiaodong, the water park manager, said: “This summer is a little bit tough for the kids. By using ice, we hope to attract more children and families.”
According to the local water resources bureau, as of Monday, some areas in 33 districts and counties in Chongqing were experiencing different degrees of drought. To date, 51 rivers in the city have stopped flowing and 24 reservoirs have dried up.
The authorities in Chongqing issued another red alert, the highest level on the national four-level warning system, for risk of forest fires in most of the city’s districts and counties. The seven-day warning took effect on Tuesday.
On Aug 11 and Monday, the city’s Dadukou and Shapingba districts banned everyone, except for those living on mountains, from entering forests within the districts’ mountain ranges from Monday until Aug 31. During the ban, the use of fire, or performing any activity likely to cause fire, is strictly prohibited.
Two forest parks on the Gele Mountains in Shapingba were temporarily closed.
Recently, dozens of staff members from Jiangbei Forestry Bureau patrolled more than 20 kilometers on foot for 12 hours in extreme heat in Tieshanping forest, Jiangbei district.
A 24-hour monitoring system has been adopted to ensure safety in more than 4,000 hectares of forests in the district, the bureau said.
To combat the heat and drought, Chongqing is preparing to introduce artificial precipitation when weather conditions allow. Nearly 600 people are on standby at 266 work stations across the city, with 107 anti-aircraft guns and 96 rocket launches ready to carry out the work.
In recent days, artificial precipitation operations have taken place in Dingshan and Dongxi counties in the city’s Qijiang district to ease severe drought, the local authorities said on Sunday.
This summer has seen significantly reduced rainfall in Chongqing’s northern county of Chengkou. Total rainfall of 415.8 millimeters has been recorded in the area so far this year－58 percent of the total the previous year.
As of Monday, the water level in Sanhe reservoir, the county’s water supply source, was 25 percent of total capacity.
Feng Yue, director of the local water resources bureau, said the county is preparing to open Yang’erba reservoir, a backup water source, to meet demand from more than 50,000 residents.