Page last updated at 10:22 GMT, Sunday, 23 August 2009 11:22 UK

Millions at risk in China drought

Low water in Wangkuai lake, Hebei province, China (June 2009)
Millions has been given in relief to flood-hit regions

More than 4.5m people are short of water in northern China as a severe drought continues, state media say.

Xinhua said the drought was spreading and crops and livestock in the south were also under threat.

Officials have called for greater efforts to combat the drought, which stretches from northeast Jilin province to the Inner Mongolia region.

China faces droughts and floods annually, but it has also seen a recent increase in extreme weather conditions.

Xinhua quoted officials as saying a total of 4.61 million people were facing difficulty in accessing drinking water on Friday, up from 3.9 million last week.

More than four million head of livestock are at risk and 8.67m hectares (21m acres) of crops have been seriously affected.

Hunan and Hubei provinces in central China are also facing shortages because of high temperatures and low rainfall.

Some 182m yuan ($26.6m: £16m) has so far been given to the authorities in the drought-hit regions to help them cope, said Xinhua.

Much of the country's farming still relies on rainfall as many of its farming communities have a poor irrigation system.

In February, the authorities created artificial snowfalls over Beijing and an attempt to alleviate the dry conditions.

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