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Lightning kills; rain too late to save crops
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13:10, August 31, 2009

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Nineteen people have died in storms and lightning strikes in southern China, while rainfall is forecast for drought-ravaged northern provinces this week.

Heavy rain in Hubei province led to the deaths of 12 people between Wednesday and Saturday. One person is listed as missing.

The storms affected nearly 400,000 people and 25,000 hectares of crops in 28 counties and cities. Ten of the 12 deaths were caused by lightning strikes, Hubei provincial news portal cnhubei.com reported.

The storm damaged nearly 5,800 houses and more than 2,100 residents have been relocated, it said.

Storms also lashed Yibin, Sichuan province, on Saturday, leading to seven deaths, with two people missing. Nearly 330,000 people were affected and nearly 200 highways and roads were damaged, chinanews.com reported.

With the rainfall exceeding 20 cm, the torrential downfall led to about 420 million yuan ($61 million) in economic losses to the city, the report said.

In the south, heavy rainfall is expected to sweep the southern areas of Zhejiang and Yunnan provinces, northern areas of Fujian province, and southwestern part of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, alleviating the regions' continuous sweltering weather, the National Meteorological Center (NMC) said Sunday.

Local governments in these areas were urged to prepare for emergencies and guard against landslides.

However, the sweltering weather is expected to return on Tuesday, as some areas along the Yangtze and Huaihe rivers will see a high of more than 35 C, NMC forecast.

Meanwhile, in Northern China, drought-afflicted provinces are expected to receive light rain or showers in the coming three days.

Today and tomorrow, central and eastern parts of Inner Mongolia, the southwestern area of Heilongjiang province and the western area of Jilin province will see light to moderate rain.

On Wednesday, Northwestern China, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning and Heilongjiang provinces will receive showers or thundershowers.

Farmers in the northern provinces said the coming rain would be useless.

"It doesn't matter if it's a big rain or a light rain, it comes too late as most of my crops have already shriveled up and died," said Pan Shuhe, a farmer from Beipiao town of Liaoning.

But the rain might help increase water storage in local residents' wells and alleviate the shortage of drinking water, he said.

Sixty-year-old farmer Su Yu from Sunrenbao village, Northern China's Shanxi province, echoed Pan.

"The rain will do little to help the crops, as this year's autumn harvest has already begun," said Su, who has been the village director for nearly 40 years.

"We haven't seen a drought like this in 60 years since the founding of New China," he said.

He said 100 hectares among the village's 120 hectares of corn and Chinese yams will produce nothing at all because of the drought. Yanggao county, which contains Sunrenbao village, is the hardest hit county in Shanxi.

The village's 750 farmers will lose about 900,000 yuan this year but no one is sure whether the government will give them subsidies, he said.

As severe drought ravages China's northern areas and begins to extend southward, Premier Wen Jiabao has called for greater efforts to deal with the situation and ensure good harvests.

During an inspection tour in the country's Inner Mongolia autonomous region last Friday, Wen urged local governments to give anti-drought measures top priority and make concrete efforts to ensure agricultural production.

China has been undergoing severe drought this year. According to statistics from the State Flood Control and Drought Relief headquarters, 12.7 million hectares of crops have been affected this summer, 35 percent more than in previous years.

Source: China Daily

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