China closes stretch of Yangtze due to drought: report

BEIJING Wed May 11, 2011 9:30pm EDT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Part of China's Yangtze River has been closed to shipping because of a drought, the China Daily newspaper reported on Thursday, citing the body that manages shipping on the river.

Authorities in Hubei province have closed the middle reaches of the river because of low water levels between the city of Wuhan and Chenglingji in Yueyang city, it said.

The shallow water conditions will continue to impede traffic until June, despite heavy rain that is expected this month and the partial opening of sluice gates in the Three Gorges Dam, the paper cited an official from the local waterway bureau as saying.

The water level is at its lowest since the dam went into operation in 2003, and the width of the river had shrunk by 50 metres since last year to about 150 metres on average, he said.

The depth of the water at the dam had fallen to 154.76 metres on Monday, below the 155 m mark where power generation begins to become more difficult, the paper said, citing official statistics.

The flow of water through the dam has risen from 7,000 cubic metres per second on Saturday to 9,220 cu m per second on Monday, producing a net drain of 3,020 cu m per second, which reduced the water level by 0.7 m between Saturday and Wednesday morning, the paper said.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by David Chance)

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