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Last Updated: Friday, 18 August 2006, 04:13 GMT 05:13 UK
Chinese drought affects millions
two children play in a dried-up pool at Xiniushi Village in Daying County of Suining City, southwest China's Sichuan province, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2006
This is the worst drought in 50 years, Xinhua says
At least 18 million people have been affected by China's worst drought in 50 years, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

The south-western region of Chongqing has been worst hit, but areas of Sichuan and Liaoning are also affected.

In Chongqing there has been no rain for more than 70 days, and two-thirds of the rivers have dried up, Xinhua said.

Residents in some mountain villages are having to walk up to 2km (1.25 miles) to get water.

At least one person is said to have died from heatstroke, and Xinhua estimates the drought has caused economic losses of 11.74bn yuan ($1.24bn).

Weather extremes

The Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs said on Thursday that in 2006, China had faced its most severe natural disasters for six years.

Map of China

By 15 August this year, natural disasters had killed 2,006 people, affected more than 316m others and caused economic losses of 160bn yuan ($20bn), the ministry estimated, according to Xinhua.

Earlier this year, some parts of China were hit by heavy snowfall, while in recent months there have been several deadly typhoons, each killing hundreds of people.

This drought is again affecting millions of people. According to Xinhua, 10m people in Sichuan, nearly 8m in Chongqing and 600,000 in Liaoning do not have enough access to drinking water at the moment.

The problem has also affected huge areas of farmland, with crop failures and the death of cattle.

The Sichuan meteorological bureau has forecast that the drought will continue, at least for the next few days.

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