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Drought raises sandstorm threat

IF the severe drought gripping northern China continues, it could damage forests and make spring sandstorms worse, an official with China's State Forestry Administration warned yesterday.

Luo Bin, an official in charge of sandstorm prevention, said that so far, forests in the source regions for sandstorms were generally in good condition.

But he said the outcome of the worst dry spell in 50 years was difficult to predict.

The official said the drought had affected some 6.3 million hectares of forests north of Beijing and Tianjin, and predicted that if it lingered, parts of these forests would be damaged.

Some relief is on the way, however.

Rain or light snow is forecast for parts of northeastern China, and the precipitation will spread to the northern and central regions, according to a report yesterday by the National Meteorological Center.

The provinces of Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Anhui, Jiangsu and Hubei, 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 drought, the center said.

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, according to the weather watchers.

Large-scale irrigation efforts have partially reduced the size of the drought area. About 11 million hectares of the affected wheat lands had been irrigated in the nation's eight wheat-growing provinces as of yesterday.

China earlier declared the highest level of emergency in response to the drought, conducted cloud-seeding operations and allocated 86.7 billion yuan (US$12.69 billion) as subsidies to farmers and 400 million yuan in drought relief for local governments.


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