High temperatures drive China residents to seek cool respite below ground

A Chinese man uses a fan to provide shade in front of the Tiananmen Gate on a hot day in Beijing.
A Chinese man uses a fan to provide shade in front of the Tiananmen Gate on a hot day in Beijing. PHOTO: EPA

NANJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - In addition to air-conditioned shopping malls and libraries, many Nanjing residents have chosen to enjoy the cool air of air-raid shelters in the summer heat.

"What I like most about the air-raid shelters is that there are no mosquitoes," said Miss Zhong Yue, a 16-year-old who accompanied her grandmother to Beijiyan Shelter, which is built into a hillside.

"My grandma goes to the shelter almost every day in summer with her friends to save electricity. I think it's environmentally friendly," she said. "However, I wouldn't be here if free WiFi wasn't provided."

Since last Saturday (July 15), Nanjing has opened eight of its air-raid shelters to the public. Tables, chairs and free mineral water are provided, along with dehumidifiers.

While in the air-raid shelters, people read books, dance or play online games.

Beijiyan Shelter, which literally means North Pole rock shelter in Chinese, is located near well-known attractions, such as Xuanwu Lake and Jiming Temple.

And it is not just residents. Visitors find their way into the shelter as well.

Mr Yuan Man, a Suzhou student who will go to college this September, said that the shelter looks different from what he had imagined.

"I thought it would be dark and terrifying inside, like in the war movies," said the student, who is travelling in Nanjing. "But it's bright and clean."

He added: "I shivered when I first entered. It's almost 40 deg C outside and inside it's only half that temperature."

Mr Yuan Renshui, a community worker in Qixia district, said people do not get bored, even if they spend the whole day in the Qianxin Yinkuang Shelter.

"We bought a television this year," he said. "The shelter covers more than 200 square metres. It's divided into three rooms for reading, playing poker and dancing."

The shelter is the only one in the city that is open all year. Others are open daily from July 15 to late August.

"Many people come to the shelter around 9.30am and don't leave until it closes at 5pm," said retiree Chen Ya. "Some even bring lunch."

Other cities, such as Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, Fuzhou, Fujian province, and Chengdu, Sichuan province have also opened their air-raid shelters to the public.

According to the National Meteorological Centre, heat will continue to grip parts of eastern, northern and southern China. Temperatures in some parts are expected to hit 37 to 40 deg C.