The worst drought in 50 years has been affecting China's western, central and northeastern regions, bringing drinking water shortages to at least 18 million people and economic loss of 11.74 billion yuan (1.24 billion US dollars) as of Thursday.
Villagers water the fields in Bishan County of southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, Aug. 17, 2006. Searing heat and the worst drought affecting parts of China in 50 years have left millions of people in drinking water shortages. [Xinhua Photo]
Residents queue up to get water from a fire engine in Beibei District of southwest China's Chongqing Municipality Aug. 16, 2006. [Xinhua Photo]
The photo taken on Aug. 7, 2006 shows a fire fighter delivers water to the villagers in Qianjiang area of southwest China's Chongqing Municipality. [Xinhua Photo]
About 10 million people in the southwestern Sichuan Province, 7.65 million in Sichuan's neighbor Chongqing Municipality and 600,000 in northeastern Liaoning Province do not have adequate access to drinking water.
All the 21 cities in southwestern China's Sichuan Province except Panzhihua have been hit by the drought, which has resulted in an economic loss of 8.87 billion yuan (1.11 billion dollars), the provincial disaster relief office said Thursday.
Many villagers who live in mountains have to walk two kilometers to get water, while some towns used vehicles to transport water, the office said.
The drought has affected 2.07 million hectares of farmland and caused total crop failure on 311,300 hectares. Agriculture in Sichuan suffered an economic loss of 7.96 billion yuan (1 billion dollars).
The Sichuan meteorological bureau forecast that the drought would continue in the coming few days.
In Sichuan's Dazhou City alone, more than 5 million people have been affected by the drought and about two million people in 20 counties under the city have been panting for drinking water.
Dazhou suffered severe droughts in 2004 and 2005, which caused an economic loss of over 10 billion yuan (1.25 billion dollars). The drought since early July has caused at least 1.3 billion yuan of economic loss and the death of 11,000 heads of livestock, and destroyed crops on 400,000 hectares of farmland in the city.
The worst-hit area is the southwestern Chongqing, which has had no rain for more than 70 consecutive days and where two-thirds of its rivers have dried up, local drought-relief authorities said Thursday, adding that one person has died of serious heatstroke.
The mercury has been lingering above 35 degrees Celsius over the past month in Chongqing, and the thermometer hit record 42 degrees in the past week.
About 1.3 million hectares of crops in Chongqing have been affected, with economic loss in agriculture reaching 1.93 billion yuan (241 million dollars), according to local agriculture authorities. The drought has caused 2.87 billion yuan (358.8 million dollars) in economic loss in the municipality.
In Chongqing, more than 7.65 million people in 40 counties have been running out of drinking water since severe drought started in mid-May.
"The village well has dried up and even the dusty water at the bottom has been scooped up," said Gu Qixiu, a villager in Zhangguan town of Yubei District. "The townsfolk have been sending us water wagons and each family gets two buckets of water a day."
Gu said the arid cropland is unlikely to yield a cent this year. "Even sweet potatoes refuse to grow in the arid land."
"This is the worst drought to hit Chongqing in 50 years," said He Lingyun, a disaster relief official with the municipal government. "Two-thirds of local rivers and lakes have dried up and more than 200 reservoirs are stagnant."
Local governments have mobilized 5.8 million people and allocated 140 million yuan (17.5 million dollars) to help residents fight drought by tapping ground water and improving water conservation facilities.
Water supply for more than 3.6 million people and three million livestock have so far been solved thanks to the drought-relief efforts.
Other provincial areas of China that are being affected by the drought are Liaoning, Hunan and Guizhou provinces and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, while water supplies for Shanghai and other cities in the eastern region are declining.
The broiling weather and drought also strained power supplies in eastern and southern China.
A blackout was enforced in the eastern city of Hangzhou to protect its power transmission grid after temperatures topped 38 degrees Celsius.
Power use in the country has soared in recent summers as families, shopping malls and hotels, with newly acquired air conditioners, compete with factories for power supply.