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Rains bring relief from China drought

File image courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Feb 12, 2009
Drought-hit regions of northern China enjoyed rare rain on Thursday and more precipitation was expected in coming days, providing relief from a severe drought that threatened vital wheat crops.

The parched capital Beijing shivered under a steady cold rain throughout the day, as did several of the important grain-growing provinces in the northern and eastern parts of the country hit hardest by the worst drought in decades.

The China Meteorological Administration said further moderate rain was expected across northern and eastern China, with it turning to snow in some areas as temperatures dipped due to a moisture-laden cold front.

The precipitation would be heavy in some areas, the administration said in it latest nationwide forecast.

China warned on Tuesday of a severe impact on the nation's winter wheat crop if no rain fell over the next two weeks.

"Right now, this is the critical period for the growth of winter crops," E Jingping, a top drought relief official, had told a news conference.

China has been firing thousands of shells and rockets packed with cloud-seeding chemicals in a desperate bid to spark rain across the northern Chinese wheat-growing heartland.

Premier Wen Jiabao said at the weekend that the drought -- which has also hit central and southwestern rice-growing provinces -- risked straining food supplies when people already faced hardships due to the economic crisis.

The drought affects 96 percent of the winter wheat-growing region, said E, secretary general of the National Headquarters of Flood-Control and Drought-Relief.

In four provinces, Henan, Anhui, Shandong and Shanxi, authorities have declared the highest-level drought emergency, the first time the emergency had ever been raised so high.

Those are among the provinces expected to see further rain.

Before Thursday's rainfall, some regions had not seen precipitation in more than 100 days.

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China struggles with drought
Beijing (AFP) Feb 6, 2009
China was struggling Friday to get water to millions of people and save swathes of its wheat harvest, after raising its drought emergency to the highest level for the first time.

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