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Friday, January 1, 1999 Published at 16:51 GMT

World: South Asia

Pakistanis pray for rain

Prayers for rain at a mosque in Islamabad

Hundreds of thousands of people in Pakistan have taken part in special Islamic prayers for rain.

Muslims in different cities stood in the open with their hands towards the sky to pray for the country to be saved from a possible food and power shortage.

It was the second consecutive Friday on which special prayers were offered, after an appeal by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The country has not had a single drop of rain for several weeks, because of changing weather patterns across the globe.

The dry spell has increased air pollution levels and dust has badly disrupted air traffic. Officials say falling water levels in rivers has affected power generation from hydro-electric projects.

For many, the worst fear is the effect the drought may have on the next wheat crop and other farm products.

Although most agricultural land in the country is irrigated by a canal system, about 12% of the entire wheat crop in Punjab province is directly dependent on rain.

Agriculture Minister Sattar Lalika has said there are still a few days to save the crop from total destruction, but if the dry spell is not broken soon more than 1 million tonnes of wheat may be completely destroyed.

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