Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Thursday, 25 March 2010

Severe drought hits south-west China

By Shirong Chen,
China editor, BBC News

A woman drives a cart across a dried-out pond in Luliang, southwest China, on 22 March 2010
Families, crops and livestock have been hit hard by the drought

Severe drought is hitting China's south-west region and in some places it is the worst drought for a century.

More than 60 million people are affected and it is estimated that billions of dollars worth of crops are now ruined.

The Chinese authorities have mobilised the armed forces to help get water to local people.

Large areas of south-west China have not had proper rainfall since October last year.

Chinese media have published pictures of parched land with deep cracks, villagers queuing at water distribution points and school children drinking what looks like muddy water.

A woman looks at a parched landscape in Qujing in southwest China on 24 March 2010
Five Chinese provinces have been affected by the drought

In Guizhou province, many distillers of Maotai - the national alcohol drunk at banquets - have stopped production due to a shortage of spring and tap water.

Asia's biggest waterfall, Huangguoshu, has been reduced to a trickle. More than 90% of the rivers and reservoirs downstream have dried up.

In Yunnan province, some villagers are travelling for up to three hours to try to find water in valleys.

The army has been ordered to help fight the water shortages. Thousands of people will have to be relocated from remote hillsides if the drought continues.

Forecasters say there is no prospect of rain in the next few days.

As the drought continues to grip, ethnic minority groups preparing for a water-splashing festival in April are now considering alternatives.

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