BEIJING -- China's camels are dying in droves and swarms of locusts are devouring bamboo forests in a drought and heat wave that has left at least 1,400 people dead and is ravaging the country's croplands, news reports said Tuesday.
In Shanghai, where more than 100 people have died of heatstroke since early July, hospitals appealed for more ice and electricity to cool patients sweltering in temperatures that climbed past 106 degrees, the local Liberation Daily newspaper said.
While southern China baked in one of the country's worst droughts this century -- with no relief in sight -- the Ministry of Water Resources warned northern China to expect more of the torrential rain and floods that have killed more than 600 people since the beginning of the year.
A livestock expert from Alashan League in Inner Mongolia issued an urgent appeal for government aid to save China's camels from starving to death, the official Guangming Daily newspaper reported.
The newspaper quoted Liang Chaolu as saying China's camel population in Inner Mongolia has plunged from about 630,000 in 1982 to some 400,000 head last year due to the lengthy drought that has wilted its grasslands.
In central China, the People's Daily reported swarms of locust, thriving in the heat, have devastated more than 6,500 acres of bamboo forests along the border of Hunan and Hubei provinces -- 80 percent of the region's total bamboo forestland.
But while Shanghai's cold drink sellers had plenty of ice to cool their wares, hospitals in China's most populous city complained they could not obtain enough ice and electricity to make life tolerable for bed-ridden patients, the Liberation Daily said.
Fines were levied against Shanghai hospitals that used extra fans to cool patients as the mercury soared above 106 for exceeding their electricity allocations, the newspaper said.
The heat wave and drought are blamed for more than 1,440 deaths in several major cities. In Nanchang alone, capital of Jiangxi Province, the death toll has risen to 290.
Thundershowers brought some relief to Hangzhou, another of China's four 'furnace cities' and the capital of southern Zhejiang province, where 930 people have died in the hot spell. A morgue official said most of the heat's victims were over 60 and died of heatstroke, heart disease or fever.
Minister for Water Resources Yang Zhenhuai said the scorching weather has destroyed or damaged more than 27 million acres of crops in the grain-producing southern provinces.
More than 20 million workers have been sent to rural areas to help farmers water crops and reseed arable land.
The worsening drought already has undermined China's ability to meet agricultural targets, Yang admitted, and could force Beijing to increase grain imports. China has expressed concern over rising grain prices due to the severe crop-killing drought in the American Midwest.
Several major cities are facing serious water shortages, and more than 8 million people in six provinces were having difficulty finding enough water to drink.
In a nation where few households can afford air conditioners, hundreds of thousands of people are sleeping in streets and parks to escape the heat, and sales of electric fans have soared.
Fan Yongxiang, chief forecaster at the Central Meteorology Observatory, warned the heat could worsen in August. He said the drought was part of abnormal weather in the Northern Hemisphere, noting skyrocketing temperatures in the United Staes, southern Europe and North Africa.
Meanwhile, officials warn that northern China faces more wet weather and more flooding in coming weeks as the annual rainy season begins.
Northern China has been deluged by torrential rains and hailstorms that have killed more than 600 people since the year began, flooded more than 15 million acres of farmland and destroyed railways, bridges and highways.