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October 21, 2009

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Ships, crops hit by dry spell

DROUGHT continued in central and southern Chinese provinces this week, with dozens of ships stranded in shallow rivers and crop harvests almost halved.

Authorities in Jiangxi Province had to demand more water from reservoirs on the upper Ganjiang River, hoping to end a two-month standstill in water traffic.

About 1,500 cubic meters of water per second was diverted into the river for 12 straight hours starting at 1pm on Monday, said a spokesman with the Jiangxi provincial headquarters for flood prevention and drought relief. "We hope this will help clear the traffic bottleneck."

A lack of rain since August had reduced water levels in the Ganjiang River to a record low, and more than 40 cargo ships had been stranded, the spokesman said.

He said the ships - some of them stranded for more than two months - were carrying more than 10,000 tons of cargo.

The local weather bureau said Jiangxi received only 104 millimeters of rain from mid-August to mid-October, about 48 percent of the normal volume.

The Ganjiang River is a major tributary of the Yangtze River and a pivotal path for water traffic in eastern China.

From Monday night, more water was diverted from the Yangtze Three Gorges Dam to help ease the effects of the drought.

Drought has brought water levels to a record low in four of the five major rivers in Jiangxi Province, and in Poyang Lake, China's largest freshwater lake.

In central China's Hunan Province, low water levels in Dongting Lake, China's second largest freshwater lake, forced fishermen to stop fishing in early October, normally the peak season.

Drought along the Xiangjiang River has caused a severe shortage of drinking water for more than 3 million people in the cities of Changsha, Zhuzhou and Xiangtan. As of Monday, a stretch of at least 5 kilometers of dry riverbed on the Xiangjiang River was dotted with stranded vessels. In Changsha, people even planted vegetables in the riverbed.

In southern China's Guangdong Province, rain is down by more than 20 percent from average, threatening to halve crop harvests.

In Quanzhou, a city in Fujian Province on the southeastern coast, drought threatened to damage 16,600 hectares of crops, the local drought relief office said.


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