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Drought closes Yangtze to ship traffic

WUHAN, China, May 13 (UPI) -- A drought has closed a 140-mile stretch of China's Yangtze River to ocean-going vessels and left stranded fishing vessels high and dry, officials said.

The Chang Jiang Waterway Bureau closed the river above Wuhan in Hubei province, where water levels dropped to as low as 9 feet Thursday, NewScientist.com reported.

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Sluice gates at the Three Gorges dam further upriver have been partially opened to alleviate the drought, discharging 14 billion cubic feet of water of water into the lower reaches of the Yangtze.

The water level is "the lowest it has been since 2003, when the Three Gorges Dam went into operation," a river management official told The Daily Telegraph.

The river has narrowed by 50 yards since last year to about 150 yards, he said.

Some 400,000 people in Hubei province are without drinking water because of the drought that threatens almost 2.1 million acres of farmland, China Daily reported.

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