Severe drought since early September is continuing to sear the eastern province of Shandong, leaving over 1.9 million people short of drinking water, according to local drought relief authorities on Monday.
The drought has affected more than 2.67 million hectares of crops and left over 1.15 million domestic animals short of drinking water, according to the provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters.
Shandong has only registered 18 mm of rainfall in the past two months, 81 percent down on the historical average for the period, according to headquarters figures.
114 rivers and streams have dried up in Yantai district alone.
Shandong is one of China's major granaries, accounting for one-tenth of the country's total grain output. Plans for 3.33 million hectares of winter wheat have been withered by the autumn drought -- 233,000 hectares have not been planted and much of the planted wheat is suffering from the drought.
Wang Fahong, an expert with the provincial academy of agricultural sciences, said that the drought would lead to a drastic reduction of the province's grain output next year.
Drought has also hit other parts of China recently. According to the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), rainfall of less than 20 millimeters was recorded in northeast and north China, the valleys of the Yellow, Huaihe and Yangtze rivers, as well as parts of central and south China in October.
The rainfall in these areas was 50 to 90 percent down on the monthly average, while the temperature was two to four degrees centigrade higher, according to CMA.
Experts urged drought-hit areas to use water efficiently and to minimize harm to crops.
Song Jifeng, head of the Shandong provincial water resources bureau, said that drought was likely to continue in Shandong as the province often has less rainfall during winter and spring.
Shandong has responded quickly to the drought by investing 700 million yuan (US$87.5 million) in anti-drought efforts, in addition to the over 14 million yuan allocated by the central government.
Currently 5.87 million people have been mobilized to fight drought in the province and 340,000 vehicles were dispatched to transport drinking water to people and livestock.
(Xinhua News Agency November 6, 2006)