Shanghai heatwave forces people onto streets

Pedestrian street Nanjing East Road has turned into an open-air slumber party as residents sleep there to escape the heat at home.
Pedestrian street Nanjing East Road has turned into an open-air slumber party as residents sleep there to escape the heat at home.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

People in Shanghai take to sleeping in the streets to escape the heat in their homes

SHANGHAI • With the current heatwave proving to be a nightmare in Shanghai, home is not the dream place to catch a good night's rest for some folk.

As the mega city swelters under record-high temperatures, it sometimes looks as if people are dropping dead from the torrid climate on its best-known shopping avenue.

Normally bustling Nanjing East Road has turned into an open-air slumber party on recent nights as local residents try to escape the heat of their cramped nearby homes by sleeping outside on benches or directly on the pavement.

The city of more than 24 million people has endured an extended hot spell over recent weeks, with temperatures yesterday topping 35 deg C for the 16th day this summer.

Many homes in some of Shanghai's low-rise older neighbourhoods lack air-conditioning, while residents who do have it will often seek ways to keep their electricity bills from skyrocketing in summer.

At about 4am yesterday, nearly 100 people - including women and children, but mostly bare-chested men - were seen sleeping out on sidewalks normally crowded with shoppers and tourists during the day.

Dozing upon newspapers, blankets or nothing at all, they sought relief from a night breeze blowing off the Huangpu River, which flows through the city centre and includes the famed Bund financial district.

Some bivouacked in nearby People's Square - Shanghai's main park - or snored while curled up outside clothing-store windows as mannequins stood guard inside.

For a number of men, the night's bed was no more than a flat stretch of pavement, shirt and shoes off, with a large bottle of water and a Chinese bun placed nearby for breakfast.

Shanghai residents are known for flocking to subway stations, shopping malls, libraries and supermarkets to escape the heat.

Outlets of Swedish retailer Ikea are particularly popular with overheated visitors, who come to nap on sofas and beds in its air-conditioned showroom.

The al fresco sleeping phenomenon is not likely to go away soon.

Shanghai is getting hotter, logging a new record high of 40.9 deg C in July of last year.

Eight of the 12 highest temperatures reached over the past century were hit only in the last five years, according to the city weather bureau.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2018, with the headline 'Shanghai heatwave forces people onto streets'. Print Edition | Subscribe