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. Parts of China's Yangtze at lowest level in 140 years: report

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Jan 17, 2008
A severe drought has left parts of China's famed Yangtze river suffering their lowest water levels in at least 140 years, state media reported Thursday.

The drought has made navigating the Yangtze a risky affair, with more than 40 ships running aground since October, according to the China Daily, which quoted officials rejecting any link with the Three Gorges Dam.

In Hankou, a major port city on the Yangtze, the water level has hit a low not seen since records began in 1866, the newspaper said.

"This year's dry season came a month earlier than usual and water levels fell sooner than expected," an unnamed official with the Yangtze river administration told the paper.

Spurred by the situation, the transportation ministry issued an emergency warning to remind cargo vessels to steer clear of shallow waters.

The paper said officials stored large amounts of water behind the massive Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze last month, causing the flow volume in the river to fall by 50 percent.

Still, it quoted the Yangtze River Water Resource Commission as saying the drought had nothing to do with the dam.

"The lack of rain is the major reason for the drying-up of the Yangtze," an unnamed official at the commission said.

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