The worst drought to hit China in 50 years is spreading to more areas after having plagued some parts for two or even three months.
About 2.5 million people and 1.8 million livestock in southwest Guizhou Province, a neighbor of hardest-hit Sichuan Province, are suffering drinking water shortages because of continuous heatwave and drought since mid August.
The mercury hovered above 35 degrees Celsius in the eastern parts of the province since August 17, and in Zunyi City, the highest temperature reached 40 degrees Celsius.
Meanwhile, 8.29 million mu (553,000 hectares) of cropland has been affected and water level in local reservoirs and rivers has decreased to record low, the provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters said Friday.
The central government has allocated 15 million yuan (US$1.86 million) to the province for disaster relief.
Local governments have taken water-saving measures, controlling water supply to car-washing services and bathhouses.
Even the country's "land of rivers and lakes" cannot escape the impact of the severe drought. In Shaoxing and Quzhou of eastern Zhejiang Province, more than 100,000 people have to face drinking water shortages.
Shaoxing has reported a continuous fall of the water levels in its 535 reservoirs. The water reserves have declined to only 40 percent that of usual days, said the provincial department of water resources.
In Huangshan, a famous tourism city in east Anhui Province, 74,800 people and 18,800 livestock are facing difficulty to get sufficient drinking water.
Many wells in local villages have dried up and villagers can only live on water carried from other places miles away.
Over the past two months, the drought has left at least 18 million people short of drinking water in 15 provinces, municipalities and regions, according to the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources.
"The severe drought will not ease up and is very likely to get worse," the ministry said on its website.
Chongqing Municipality and Sichuan Province have been hardest hit.
The Sichuan Provincial Meteorological Administration predicts the drought will continue as the central and eastern parts of the province experiencing temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius until Saturday.
The province, however, will see marked falls in temperature next Monday when showers and heavy rains are forecast, the administration said earlier this week.
The drought, the worst to hit Chongqing since the city's meteorological records began in 1891, began in mid-May and had plagued most of the municipality for 60 to 90 days, said Vice Mayor Chen Guangguo.
Nearly eight million people and 7.3 million livestock had shortages of drinking water due to drought, which also affected 1.3 million hectares of cropland, said Chen.
The State Council has urged local governments to secure water supply for the people, saying small and expedient water-storing and transmission facilities should be put to use.
(Xinhua News Agency September 2, 2006)