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Drought worsens in northwest China

BEIJING (AP)--China's monthslong drought has worsened in northwestern Gansu even after snow and rainfall eased the crisis in seven other provinces, the Agriculture Ministry said Feb. 25.

The ministry's website called the current situation "grim," with 80 percent of the farmland for winter crops affected--a total of 1.1 million acres (483,000 hectares)--because of little precipitation, high temperatures and decreased river flow.

The country's worst drought in nearly five decades affected a huge swath of northern and central China, and Beijing declared an emergency at the beginning of the month after a drop in rainfall caused winter wheat crops to wither and left millions of people in eight provinces without adequate drinking water.

"Now the drought situation is as bad as that 60 years ago when people's lives relied totally on rainfall," Tang Shili, a local government official from central Gansu was quoted as saying in the official China Daily. "The harvest will be gravely harmed."

Large sections of the Yellow River have dried up, with only parched and cracked riverbeds remaining.

The provincial government has launched an emergency response, sending experts to help farmers irrigate their crops.

Recent snow and rain in other parts of the drought-affected region, which the government has said it artificially induced with cloud-seeding techniques, has helped ease the emergency in the wheat-producing provinces of Henan, Hebei and Shandong.

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