'It's Too Hot': Shanghai Wilts In Record-Setting Heat Wave
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Today the temperature in Shanghai hit 105.4 degrees. That makes it the hottest day there since the government began keeping records 140 years ago. And the Chinese megacity is in the midst of its hottest summer ever. Usually bustling streets are near empty at noon and thousands have gone to hospitals for relief. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports on how Shanghai is trying to keep cool.
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: It's early afternoon and I'm in a giant swimming pool in downtown Shanghai. I brought a thermometer and it says it's about 98 degrees in the shade. There's probably close to 200 people in the pool right now, a lot of them knocking balls around or cooling themselves beneath a fountain over here.
But given the heat we've had in the last several weeks, frankly, I expected more people. Song Zicheng is standing by a waterslide watching his friends splash into the pool below. Song, a 17-year-old high-schooler, says the reason this pool isn't more crowded is simple.
SONG ZICHENG: (Speaking foreign language)
LANGFITT: Everybody is home. It's too hot, he says. Maybe it will rain later, he adds, hopefully. That's right, Shanghai is so hot most people won't even go to the pool. And the heat has been relentless. In July, 24 days had temperatures of 95 degrees or above. More than 10 people have already died from the heat. Song has a grandmother in her 80s.
ZICHENG: (Speaking foreign language)
LANGFITT: She basically doesn't go out, he says. She can't stand the heat. She only goes out when it's dark. On the other side of the pool is Dong Hejia. He's wearing a black bathing cap and playing with his two grandchildren. Dong is 74 years old and used to work as a welder in a shipyard. He says this summer is the hottest he can remember.
Dong says one reason that temperatures are so high is because the city's countless skyscrapers trap the heat.
DONG HEJIA: (Through interpreter) When we were young, we only had low-rise buildings, the tallest was 24 stories. They were international hotels. Now those international hotels look like little brothers compared to the skyscrapers, which continue to grow and affect the airflow.
LANGFITT: China's national meteorological center attributes the heat wave to climate change as well as Shanghai's construction density, growing population and shrinking green space. And that heat wave is hurting some Shanghai businesses. It's after 9:30 at night and the temperature is still over 90. I'm standing on a street corner, talking to some fruit venders that I often buy from and there are hardly any customers here.
ZHANG DELIANG: (Speaking foreign language)
LANGFITT: Vender Zhang Deliang wears his purple-striped polo shirt rolled up over his ribcage to cool his belly. It's a summer fashion of sorts among Chinese working class men. Gazing at his boxes of apples, peaches and Sunkist oranges, he says the weather is costing him money.
DELIANG: (Speaking foreign language)
LANGFITT: Fruit rots fast, he says. When the temperature is high, people don't come out. They just sit inside blowing their air conditioning. Normally, Zhang starts selling at 10:00 in the morning and packs up around midnight. These days he begins at 5:00 in the afternoon because he can't take the heat. Forecasters say Zhang and the rest of this city of 23 million won't see a break in the temperature until at least this weekend. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Shanghai. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.