Long-awaited rain eases drought in central, southern China

WUHAN/CHANGSHA, June 4 (Xinhua) — Most of the drought-hit cities in central and southern China embraced moderate to heavy rain Saturday, bringing hope to end the worst drought in six decades in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.

In the central Hubei Province, 28 cities and counties received rain Friday and Saturday, the weather bureau in the provincial capital Wuhan said.

On Friday, Xianning City received the largest volume of precipitation, totaling 163.4 mm, it said.

The rain is expected to last until Monday.

Experts with the provincial meteorological bureau predicted the rain will ease drought in the northern and northwestern parts of Hubei, but the drought may persist in the eastern parts of the province.

“It needs more rainfall to drench the 1.25 million hectares of thirsty cropland, which has received no rain since November,” the bureau said in a press release.

The bureau said it is ready to create artificial rain and boost precipitation before the rain stops.

The neighboring Hunan Province is also expecting heavy rain from Saturday night to Monday.

The western and northern parts of the province will expect heavy rain Saturday night and the entire province is in for moderate rain or downpour on Sunday,” said Ye Chengzhi, a specialist with the Hunan provincial meteorological station.

As the rainy season begins, Ye said the province may have to watch out for flood shortly after its drought ends.

The central meteorological station has forecast rain also in Jiangxi, Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces and Shanghai in eastern China, and Chongqing municipality and Guizhou Province in the southwest in the coming three days.

The worst drought in 60 years to hit the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River has aroused widespread concern from China’s leaders.

President Hu Jintao, at the end of a four-day tour to Hubei Province Friday, urged local government officials to treat drought relief in rural areas as an “urgent task”.

The drought-hit areas are China’s major agricultural production bases.

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