CHINA / Regional

Drought hits Southwest China in rainy season
(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-08-14 05:29

Heatwaves continued in southwestern and western China, affecting more than 17 million people as the shortage of drinking water worsens, sources said.

Record high readings were reported by the Central Meteorological Administration yesterday, with temperatures hitting 39 C to 40 C yesterday in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, its neighbouring Sichuan Province, and the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The shortage of drinking water caused by lack of rain and oppressive heat has affected more than 14 million residents in Chongqing and 3.1 million in Sichuan, causing losses of 9.23 billion yuan (US$1.15 billion), Xinhua News Agency reported on Saturday.

In Sichuan, by August 10, the drought had ravaged more than 4 million livestock and about 1.3 million hectares of farmland.

Northeastern and central Sichuan has suffered the most from the drought.

In the city of Suining, the two-month drought is the most severe since 1951, Ren Yongchang, mayor of Suining, was quoted by Xinhua as saying on Saturday.

Many villages have seen dried-up ponds, withered corn crops and cracked farmland.

"It is the worst drought I've seen in years," Nie Zhengchang, 61, a farmer from Baixiang village in Sichuan. "The crops are dying under the sun."

Nie himself faces a lack of drinking water as most of the wells in the village are dried up, he said.

To tackle the drought and reduce losses, the local governments have allocated funds and people to help residents by tapping about 600 wells and sending firefighters to deliver water.

In Chongqing, about 1 million hectares of farmland in 40 counties have been affected by the heat.

From last month, Chongqing had recorded 24 days of high temperature averaging 38 C to 40 C.

Experts advised the public to keep cool. Outdoor workers are warned to take precautions against heatstroke.

(China Daily 08/14/2006 page3)