| Zhao Qingde, a local villager, collects water to feed cattle from a reservoir which is drying up at drought-affected Ayulin Village of Shilin Yi Autonomous County, southwest China's Yunnan Province, Sept. 7, 2011. Lingering drought has affected 16,987 hectares, or nearly 70 percent of the total area, of crops throughout the county. (Xinhua/Lin Yiguang)
BEIJING, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- A lingering drought has left more than 12.6 million people short of drinking water and huge tracts of farmland parched in China's southwestern regions, the nation's top drought-relief authority said Thursday.
The State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said that a total of 6.24 million hectares of farmland nationwide have been affected by the drought as of Thursday.
The drought has also caused water shortages for 14.54 million people nationwide.
But the drought has been particularly severe in the southwestern provinces of Guizhou, Yunnan and Sichuan, the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and Chongqing Municipality, drying up reservoirs and rivers since it began in early July.
The drought has affected more than 3 million hectares of farmland in the southwest.
China's Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei on Thursday ordered local bureaus to establish detailed plans for solving the drinking problem for local residents and intensify drought-fighting efforts.
The nation's meteorological authorities have issued light and moderate rain forecasts for these drought-hit regions over the next three days.
Also on Thursday, the Ministry of Civil Affairs issued an urgent notice, ordering local civil affairs authorities to solve the food shortage problem and to pay great attention to both access and safety of drinking water.
Civil affairs authorities at all levels are also urged to increase relief funds, survey damage and learn the exact magnitude of the food and drinking water shortages.
Further, the civil affairs ministry ordered plans to be made to help drought victims endure the cold winter.