Firefighters help students get water from a truck on a school playground in Xihe township, Suizhou city, Central China's Hubei province, May 26, 2011. [Photo/Xinhua]
BEIJING - A severe drought from April has affected some 34.83 million people in five provinces along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River as of Friday, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
Among them, about 4.23 million are experiencing difficulty in finding drinking water and 5.06 million are in need of assistance, the ministry said, citing reports from civil affairs departments from the five provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei, and Hunan.
The drought, caused by unusually low rainfall and insufficient flow from the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, also led to an direct economic loss of 14.94 billion yuan ($2.29 billion), it said.
The Ministry has warned that the drought poses a serious threat to drinking water supplies for urban residents in affected areas as reservoirs are being drained.
The Ministry, along with the State Disaster Relief Commission, has ordered a series of measures in response to the lingering drought, including allocating a relief fund of 55 million yuan on Thursday to Hubei and Hunan, the two hardest hit provinces.
In east China's Jiangxi Province, thirst of the country's largest freshwater lake, Poyang, was partly quenched after a downpour from May 21 to 23. The lake's surface water area was increased by one-sixth on Friday, according to local authorities.
The surface water area is 1.531 square km, an increase of 205 square km from the record low of 1,326 square km on May 18, according to officials with the provincial meteorological research institute.
However, compared with the normal average rainfall the water area is still quite small, said officials.
Satellite monitoring shows the water area on May 18 was the smallest, only half that of the perennial average, said officials.