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Drought Strikes Sichuan, Millions Affected
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Southwest China's Sichuan Province is in the middle of a month-long drought that has ruined 2.61 million hectares of farmland and caused losses of 4.85 billion yuan (US$ 606 million).

About 37.59 million people have been affected by the drought while 6.84 million people and 8.5 million livestock are in urgent need of drinking water, an official surnamed Liu with the Civil Affairs Administration of Sichuan Province told China Daily yesterday.

Liu said that so far 129 million head of livestock have died.

The worst hit area is the city of Suining in the northern part of the province.

Rainfall from June 21 to July 31 was just 32.9 millimeters, the lowest since 1947 and only 25 per cent of the normal figure for the time of year, West China Metropolis Daily reported.

Shanxisi Village in Suining ran out of water on July 17, and the local fire brigade has been providing them with emergency supplies, according to the report.

Authorities have allocated 10 million yuan (US$1.25 million) for drought relief operations, according to the website of the Civil Affairs Administration of Sichuan Province.

In Suining, more than 10,000 officials have gone into rural areas to help local residents fight the drought.

Xuanhan County of Dazhou has launched a harvest protection program, guiding farmers to sow xerophilic fungi, a type of mould that does not require free water to grow, on areas of farmland where the original crops have died to ensure future yields.

On Tuesday, Premier Wen Jiabao ordered all relevant departments and organizations to focus on drought relief work, stressing the importance of the "human-centred" principle, Xinhua News Agency reported.

The cause of the drought is the combination of sub-tropical high pressure and a continental anticyclone above the Sichuan Basin, Ma Zhenfeng, director of the provincial climate centre was quoted by Chengdu Economic Daily as saying.

The provincial weather bureau indicated that the hot and dry weather in Sichuan may last until August 15.

(China Daily August 11, 2006)

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