Drought affects 6 million in southern China

Workers have begun tapping into underground water reserves to help the nearly 6 million people who have been affected by the worst drought to hit China's southern province of Yunnan in 60 years, a local official said Wednesday.

Severe water shortages for crops and livestock prompted the local government to send dozens of teams out Wednesday to six major drought-hit regions around Yunnan to pump water from underground sources, said a director at the Yunnan Land Resources Bureau, who would give only his surname Ma.

He said some water reserves could be found as close as 165 feet (50 meters) to the surface, while in other drier regions the water table was as deep as 655 feet (200 meters) underground.

Since late 2009, the mountainous province of Yunnan has received little rainfall, causing economic losses in crops and livestock worth 10 billion yuan ($1.46 billion).

As many as 10 million people could be affected by May if the drought continues to worsen, Ma said.

China's large land mass means it often suffers from droughts in one region while other areas are affected by record-breaking temperatures and severe storms that can cause floods.