Thousands of emergency responders are battling to contain fast-spreading wildfires in the southwest Chinese city of Chongqing amid a week-long record heat wave in the region .
The fires, visible at night from parts of the city center, have swept through forests and mountains around the megacity in recent days.
On social media, residents of downtown Chongqing complained of smelling smoke inside their apartments, while others posted photos of burning embers from fires reaching their balconies.
Since August 18, wildfires have broken out in several outlying districts, local authorities said. The municipality is home to more than 32 million inhabitants.
City officials have not yet reported any casualties and said the fires are under control, according to an update Tuesday morning.
More than 1,500 residents have been relocated to safe areas, while 5,000 firefighters, police, local and volunteer officers and seven firefighting helicopters have been dispatched to help fight the blazes, the news agency reported. Xinhua official.
Since Tuesday, all districts and counties in Chongqing have issued an order prohibiting the use of fire in the wild and fire-prone activities.
The fires in Chongqing are the result of “spontaneous combustion” mainly caused by extremely high temperatures, said Bai Ye, a professor at the China Forest and Grassland Fire Prevention and Suppression Research Center.
Wildfires are another ripple effect of a crippling heat wave – the worst in China since 1961 – that has swept through the country’s southwest, center and east in recent weeks, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in more than 100 cities.
They are also part of a global trend of wildfires that have ravaged regions from Australia to California, with scientists saying high global temperatures due to human-caused climate change are increasing the risk of these events.
The heatwave in China has also led to increased demand for air conditioning and reductions in hydroelectric capacity due to drought conditions that have hit the Yangtze River and connected waterways.
Earlier this week, Sichuan Province, neighboring Chongqing, extended temporary power cuts to factories in 19 of the region’s 21 cities. Power cuts will now continue until at least Thursday, in a measure the local government says will ensure power to homes. Last week, the provincial capital, Chengdu, began dimming subway station lighting in a bid to save electricity.
Chongqing has issued an order ordering factories to suspend operations for seven days starting last Wednesday, according to state media.
High temperatures are not yet ready to go anywhere.
On Tuesday morning, China issued a red alert heat warning, the highest of four color-coded levels, to at least 165 cities and counties across the country.
According to the China Meteorological Administration, temperatures in these cities are expected to exceed 40 degrees Celsius in the next 24 hours.
Another 373 cities or counties across China issued the second-highest orange alert warning, the administration said, noting that temperatures above 37 degrees Celsius are expected in those cities over the next three days.
China’s Central Meteorological Observatory, in a statement on Tuesday, advised people to avoid outdoor activities during high temperature periods and limit work in hot conditions.
Chinese authorities previously said more than 900 million people across the country were affected by the heat wave this summer.