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Light snow, rain to provide slight respite from drought
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Drought-stricken north China will get drizzle or moderate rain from Wednesday to Friday, the National Meteorological Center (NMC) forecast Wednesday.

Rain or light snow is forecast for the three-day period in parts of northeastern China, and the precipitation will spread to the northern and central regions, according to the NMC.

The provinces of Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Anhui, Jiangsu and Hubei, the major wheat-growing areas that have been hard-hit by an unusually severe drought, will have rain or snow.

Total rainfall will be less than 10 millimeters but will provide moderate relief from the grim drought, said the NMC.

During the next 10 days, cold air will move from north to south across China. The western region will get little rain and be prone to forest fires.

The worst dry spell in 50 years has parched more than 40 percent of the nation's total wheat land, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Large-scale irrigation efforts have partially reduced the size of the affected area. According to the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, more than 11 million hectares of the affected wheat lands had been irrigated in the nation's eight wheat-growing provinces as of Wednesday.

The area of affected crops was more than 18 million hectares as of Wednesday, with 4.65 million people and 2.33 million livestock facing drinking water shortages.

China has declared the highest level of emergency in response to the drought, conducted cloud-seeding operations and allocated 86.7 billion yuan (about US$12.69 billion) as subsidies to farmers.

In addition, the central government has decided to earmark 400 million yuan in drought relief for local governments.

(Xinhua News Agency February 12, 2009)

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