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Drought dries up river, kills crops in China

STORY: 68-year-old farmer Chen Xiaohua combs through his plot of land in southwestern China.

Normally at this time in August, his sweet potato leaves would be growing think and plentiful. Instead, they’re burnt to a crisp under the sweltering sun.

“All scorched, you see, certainly cannot grow. The high temperature is slowly roasting the sweet potato leaves to death.”

China’s Yangtze river is quickly running dry amid a two-month heatwave.

And it’s not the only one.

Sixty-six rivers across 34 countries in the Chongqing region have dried up, according to state broadcaster CCTV. One district reached 113 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday, the hottest in the country.

Rainfall is down 60% compared to the seasonal norm, putting the autumn harvest in jeopardy.

China is taking emergency action, sending specialists to vulnerable regions to help allocate water resources. Earlier this week, the Ministry of Water Resources put out a warning about deteriorating soil moisture in several provinces.

Regional governments are being urged to draw up schedules for farms to take turns tapping what water remains.

The fresh water Chen has been relying on from a nearby mountain stream has dwindled to nothing in recent days. He’s turned to a nearby pond, carrying buckets of water every morning to try and save his crops.

But the leaves and stems continue to die.

Chen says he hasn’t seen the temperatures this high since a historical heatwave over a half-century ago.

"This year is drier than 1960. The temperature is higher this year. It wasn't as high as this in 1960 ... The temperature is so high every day. We have to work in the morning. In the afternoon we only stay in the house. We are afraid to go out."