South braces for double blow of floods, drought

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2007, 12:00am

Extreme weather conditions are looming over the southern half of the mainland with the southwest municipality of Chongqing withering in a drought, and floods forecast for Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi and Guangdong.

Chongqing water resources bureau spokesman Lu Feng said the city's drought began in February, and had left 1.61 million people from 36 districts and counties short of drinking water. It had also already cost Chongqing at least 1 billion yuan in direct economic losses.

'We are still suffering from the effects of the last drought and need more water than ever,' he said. 'Unfortunately, the rainfall last winter and this spring is 30 per cent lower than in previous years.'

Chongqing experienced its worst drought in more than a century last summer with temperatures up to 43 degrees Celsius and millions of people struggling to find drinking water.

The State Flood Control and Drought Relief Office had ordered all hydroelectric stations in the upper Jialing River to open their water gates to help ease the water shortage.

Mr Lu said the extreme weather might ease with rain and a drop in temperature forecast for this week.

Kuang Yaoqiu , a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Guangzhou-based Institute of Geochemistry, said a sudden La Ni?a effect had contributed to the sharp decrease in rainfall.

'This is usually the rainy season in southwest China. But the La Ni?a arrived in advance [of the regular rainy season] and prevented rainfall by [reducing the amount of] warm and moist air in the region.'

Professor Kuang said that if La Ni?a continued gaining strength, it could also lead to floods across southeast China in May or June.