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Large swathes of China in grip of worst drought in 50 years
BEIJING (AFP) Nov 11, 2004
Large swathes of southern and eastern China are in the grip of their worst drought in more than 50 years, prompting calls from the countries top leaders for better management of water conservation.

A prolonged dry spell has ravaged southern and eastern provinces, including Guangdong, Hainan, Jiangxi and Anhui provinces and Guangxi autonomous region, the Xinhua news agency reported Thursday.

In Jiangxi alone, drinking water to 620,000 people and 260,000 livestock is threatened.

The State Council, China's cabinet, held an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss the crisis and hammer out ways to deal with drought relief and water conservancy construction in the coming winter and spring.

To combat the drought, the government called on residents to save water as much as possible while local governments were instructed to improve management of water utilities to guarantee daily water supplies in urban and rural areas.

The government would also increase relief funds, Vice Premier Hui Liangyu was cited as saying.

To make matters worse, China's meteorological department is predicting a warm winter, which could worsen the drought, increase the risk of forest and grassland fires and trigger the spread of animal diseases, Xinhua said.

While large parts of the country are suffering drought, many others areas have been hit by heavy rains and floods this year, with hundreds of people dying and thousands injured.

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