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World news today: Authorities in Hubei carry out cloud seeding operations in Hubei province on 16 August

Chinese authorities are attempting to induce rainfall in parts of central and southwest China amid a severe drought and record-breaking heatwave.

The Yangtze River – Asia’s longest waterway – is now at record low levels. In some stretches, there has been less than half the usual rainfall.

Hydropower reservoirs are currently down by as much as half, officials say.

At the same time, a surge in demand for air conditioning has put power companies under extreme pressure.

The two-month-long heatwave is the longest on record in China, the National Climate Centre said.

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Provinces around the drought-stricken Yangtze river have turned to cloud seeding operations to combat the lack of rain, with Hubei and several other provinces launching rockets carrying chemicals into the sky, according to local media.

But a lack of cloud cover has stalled efforts in some areas seeking to do the same.

Meanwhile, temperatures across Sichuan and neighboring provinces have exceeded 40C (104 F).

As a result, government offices in Sichuan were asked to keep air conditioning levels at no lower than 26C (79 F), according to the Sichuan Daily quoted by Reuters news agency. Workers have also been asked to use staircases rather than lifts where possible.

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Millions of residents have also been hit with blackouts in the province.

In the city of Dazhou, home to some 5.4 million people, blackouts are lasting up to three hours, local media report.

They say factories in the province have been forced to cut production or halt work as part of emergency measures to redirect power supplies to households.

Hydropower reservoirs – of which there are many in the region – are currently down by as much as half, officials added.

Chinese troops will travel to Russia to take part in joint military exercises led by the host and including India, Belarus, Mongolia, Tajikistan, and other countries, China’s defense ministry said Wednesday.

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China’s participation in the joint exercises was “unrelated to the current international and regional situation,” the ministry said in a statement.

Last month, Moscow announced plans to hold “Vostok” (East) exercises from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5, even as it wages a costly war in Ukraine. It said at the time that some foreign forces would participate, without naming them.

Its last such exercises took place in 2018 when China took part for the first time.

China’s defense ministry said its participation in the exercises was part of an ongoing bilateral annual cooperation agreement with Russia.

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“The aim is to deepen practical and friendly cooperation with the armies of participating countries, enhance the level of strategic collaboration among the participating parties, and strengthen the ability to respond to various security threats,” the statement said.

Under Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Beijing and Moscow have grown increasingly close.

Shortly before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Beijing and Moscow announced a “no limits” partnership, although U.S. officials say they have not seen China evade U.S.-led sanctions on Russia or provide it with military equipment.

Russia’s eastern military district includes part of Siberia and has its headquarters in Khabarovsk, near the Chinese border.

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