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Autumn Showers to Ease Drought?
A one-week downpour in southern China has begun to ease severe conditions in the drought-stricken area, meteorologists said.
Medium to heavy rain began falling last Friday, bringing relief to a region that has been dry for over two months, said Professor Zhang Qiang of the Chinese National Meteorological Administration yesterday. "The drought this autumn can be regarded as the worst in the southern part of the country since 1951."
Eastern areas have also been hit along with Guangdong, Hainan, Jiangxi and Anhui provinces and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
"Many areas around the southern part of the Yangtze River saw very limited rain in October, 80 to 90 percent less than in previous years," Zhang said.
In Jiangxi Province alone, drought has affected more than 620,000 people and 202,000 hectares of crops, whilst 260,000 livestock have been short of drinking water.
But a cold front has moved from Mongolia to the southeast, bringing rain to the south and lower temperatures in the north. 
The rain is expected to last for at least another two days, but not all areas have received enough. Guangdong and southern Guangxi have reaped only meager rice harvests and have still fallen short of the water they need.
The meteorological administration has predicted that most of China could witness a warm winter this year caused by the coming El Nino and global warming. The warm winter could make drought conditions worse, increase the risk of forest and grassland fires and trigger a spread of animal disease, they said. A dry winter can also trigger more respiratory diseases.
The State Council, China's cabinet, held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss work on drought relief and water conservancy for the coming winter and spring. There has been more damage from flood and drought since 1990, and the costs incurred now account for 4 percent of GDP, much higher than in most developed countries.
(China Daily November 12, 2004)

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