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Meari heads for eastern coastline

EXTREME weather conditions are plaguing China with a strengthening tropical storm on the eastern coastline and a prolonged drought in the northwest. The full force of the storm named Meari, still gaining in strength and likely to soon become a typhoon, would be felt in Zhejiang Province as it made landfall there yesterday evening, according to an alert from the meteorological station of Zhejiang Province. Meari, heading northward, was forecast to pass by Shanghai at midnight last night and move north into the Yellow Sea, according to local meteorologists. Under the influence of the tropical storm, strong winds and heavy rains hit the city last night. However, today's highest temperature is still predicted to be 31 degrees Celsius, 1 degree higher than yesterday, weathermen said. Shanghai has emptied reservoirs to make room for the water the typhoon is likely to bring, said Zhang Zhenyu, spokesman for the Shanghai Flood Control Headquarters. Shanghai has inspected subway stations, underground parking lots and other places at risk of flooding to ease concerns heightened by a torrential rain that drenched Beijing and paralyzed parts of the city's transport system on Thursday, Zhang said. Further north on China's eastern coastline, the storm was expected to unleash heavy rains in cities in Shandong Province from last night to today. Heavy rains Meari brought to Jiangsu Province, which is to the south of Zhejiang, has relieved a drought that had been haunting the province for months. The water level of Hongze Lake, a major lake in northern Jiangsu, had risen and water supply to a large stretch of dried farmland resumed due to the rains. While torrential rains have broken severe droughts in the country's southern, central and eastern regions, the vast northwest remains parched. A prolonged drought in the northwest province of Gansu has disrupted drinking water supplies to more than 2 million people, provincial authorities said yesterday. In addition, the drought also has disrupted water supplies to more than 1! million head of livestock and about 1.3 million hectares of farmland, according to a statement from Gansu's civil affairs department.

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