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China drought affects 35 million people

BEIJING, May 30 (UPI) -- The months-long drought along China's Yangtze River has affected 35 million people and the economic loss so far stands at $2.3 billion, officials said Monday.

No immediate relief was in sight as the National Meteorological Center said the dry weather was expected to continue over the next few days in provinces and municipalities in the area, China Daily reported.

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Photographs showed fishing boats stranded on grassland, once the bed of Poyang Lake -- China's largest fresh water lake in eastern Jiangxi province.

Since early January, precipitation in Jiangsu, Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei and Hunan provinces has been about 40 percent to 60 percent less than the same period last year, the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The report said the Dongting Lake in Hunan province is also drying up dramatically.

Of the total number affected by the drought, about 4.23 million people were experiencing difficulties in finding drinking water and 5.06 million were in need of assistance, the report said.

The drought has also affected 1.07 million head of cattle and 9.1 million acres of crops.

The soaring prices of vegetables are adding to the country's already high inflation, which was expected to reach a new high in May.

Authorities have ordered the Three Gorges Dam spanning the Yangtze River to discharge more water to the drought-hit provinces.

The drought has been described as the worst since 1954. Experts said extensive cultivation and poor water conservancy also are contributing to the problem.

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