China has deployed guns, cannons and planes to combat the extreme drought that has been affecting cities and towns along the Yangtze River for more than two months.

Nearly 1,000 volleys of silver iodide were shot into the sky this week in Anhui province to create rain, the party's China Daily reported.

Hubei province used a special aircraft from the national weather service to inject small particles of silver iodide into clouds and make them rain down.

In the metropolis of Chongqing, 625 rounds of special ammunition were fired from cannons for the same purpose, the newspaper reported.

Such methods of manipulating the weather have been used in China for decades.

Other countries, such as the United States, have similar programs, albeit on a smaller scale.

In the past, China has used the method, among other things, to ensure blue skies on important political occasions such as the 2008 Olympic Games.

Whether it actually managed to produce rain this week was not reported.

Friederike Böge

Political correspondent for China, North Korea and Mongolia.

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Lack of rain and extreme heat have pushed water levels in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze to their lowest levels since surveys began in 1961.

Since July, the region has only had about half as much rain as usual for the season.

In many cities, temperatures rose to more than 40 degrees.

In Chongqing, for example, 44 degrees were measured on Wednesday.

Many farmers now fear for their harvests, and drinking water is becoming scarce in some regions.

To remedy the situation, 830 million cubic meters of water are to be drained from the Three Gorges Dam in the coming days.

The Ministry of Finance has promised emergency aid against drought damage.

Some of the country's most important rice and grain-growing areas are affected.

Almost exactly a year ago, the same river region was hit by a catastrophic flood.

According to the Chinese weather service, the extreme heat has been going on for 67 days.

The previous heat record was 62 days and was achieved in 2013.

The highest heat warning level was declared for at least 138 cities on Wednesday.

The authorities do not expect the situation to ease before September.

The heat wave is "persistent, widespread and of extreme intensity".

It could get even more intense in the next two weeks.

Room temperature not below 26 degrees

The water level in Poyang Lake, China's largest inland body of water, also fell to its lowest level since records began in 1961. The lake is an important biotope for migratory birds.

According to meteorologists, the drought is caused by an unusually large high-pressure area over the western Pacific.

In the meantime, climate change is also openly named as the cause of extreme weather phenomena in China.

However, this does not lead to a social debate about the government's climate protection measures.

Sichuan province, which gets most of its electricity from hydroelectric power stations, rationed electricity for companies.

Most factories, with the exception of essential plants, had to shut down operations for six days.

Affected companies include Toyota, Foxconn and car battery manufacturer CATL.

In the metropolis of Chongqing it was even seven days.

As a reason, Sichuan Province said that the power supply of the population has priority.

However, the electricity was also turned off by the hour in private households.

The heat has caused electricity consumption by air conditioning to skyrocket.

In some authorities, employees have been instructed not to lower the room temperature below 26 degrees.

One reason for the electricity shortage in Sichuan is the ineffective electricity market in China.

Despite rationing, Sichuan continues to export electricity to other provinces because it is bound by long-term contracts.

Because of such misguided incentives, many provinces are building their own coal-fired power plants, even though there is already overcapacity on the market that cannot be effectively distributed in the event of regional bottlenecks.

Deputy Prime Minister Han Zheng visited the state-owned electricity utility State Grid Corporation on Wednesday and urged that reforms be implemented quickly.