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Rain Brings Hopes of Cooler Days in Sichuan
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Rainfall in parts of Sichuan Province over the weekend has brought hopes of an end to the region's worst-ever drought.

Showers in cities and prefectures in the southwestern province yesterday and on Saturday at last offered some respite from the heat wave which has plagued the province for the last couple of months.

Ya'an, Leshan, Meishan, Zigong, Yibin and Panzhihua cities and parts of the Aba Tibetan, Qiang Autonomous and Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous prefectures all reported rain over the weekend.

According to the Sichuan Provincial Weather Bureau, a cold air front found its way into Sichuan on Saturday evening.

Yesterday, the temperature in most western parts of the Sichuan Basin dropped below 40 C. While in eastern parts it fell below 35 C.

In Chengdu, the provincial capital, the temperature dropped to 30 C.

According to Wang Sheng, an official with the Sichuan Provincial Weather Bureau, the high-pressure air mass hovering over the province will weaken and withdraw eastward.

This will probably result in more rain around Thursday, ending the month-long heat wave, he said.

According to the Sichuan Provincial Disaster Relief Office, the heat wave has resulted in severe droughts in 112 of Sichuan's 181 counties.

Nearly 4.9 million people and 6 million livestock are in dire need of drinking water due to the drought, which has caused losses of nearly 8.9 billion yuan (US$1.1 billion), close to 8 billion yuan (US$1 billion) of which were shouldered by farmers, the office said.

Hot weather and a severe drought have left millions of people short of drinking water and millions of hectares of cropland damaged across the country, Xinhua reported.

By last Thursday, 18.03 million people in 15 provinces and regions were suffering drinking water shortages, said the Ministry of Water Resources.

The drought, the worst in 50 years, has damaged more than 130 million hectares of cropland, and more than 17 million livestock have faced reduced water supplies.

Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality and Sichuan Province have been hardest hit.

"I have never seen any drought as severe as this one," said Nie Zhongchang, a 61-year-old farmer in Baixiang Village in Suining City, one of the hardest hit cities in Sichuan.

Cracks in the village's paddy fields can hold half a man's leg, sweet potatoes have withered, rice has become weeds and corn has turned to firewood due to the scorching sun, he said.

The drought is the most severe since 1951, Ren Yongchang, mayor of Suining, told China Daily.

It has affected 2.1 million hectares of crops in Sichuan, 308,000 of which will produce no crops whatsoever this year, according to the Sichuan Provincial Disaster Relief Office.

Water in Sichuan's major rivers is at a record low level. As a result the province, known for having the country's largest exploitable hydropower resources, now faces a severe power shortage.

Showers in Chongqing

Residents in most parts of Chongqing were happy to see some showers yesterday cooling down temperatures in this "hot-pot" city for the first time in as many as 40 days.

Rainfall in Shaping District and Shizhu County reached 20 millimetres and 30 millimetres respectively.

While being helpful in cooling down the temperature, the rainfall can't relieve the droughts, said the director of the Chongqing weather bureau, who only gave his surname as Liu.

(China Daily August 21, 2006)

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