DURANGO, Mexico (AP) - The sun-baked northern states of Mexico are suffering under the worst drought since the government began recording rainfall 70 years ago. Crops of corn, beans and oats are withering in the fields. About 1.7 million cattle have died of starvation and thirst.
Hardest hit are five states in Mexico's north, a region that is being parched by the same drought that has dried out the southwest United States. The government is trucking water to 1,500 villages scattered across the nation's northern expanse, and sending food to poor farmers who have lost all their crops.
Life isn't likely to get better soon. The next rainy season isn't due until June, and there's no guarantee normal rains will come then.
Most years, Guillermo Marin harvests 10 tons of corn and beans from his fields in this harsh corner of Mexico. This year, he got just a single ton of beans. And most of the 82-year-old farmer's fellow growers in this part of Durango state weren't able to harvest anything at all.
"I almost got a ton of beans. It's very little, but you have to harvest whatever you get," said Marin, who depends on his crops to sustain himself and the seven grown children who work with him. The family has five plots of 20 acres (8 hectares) each in the town of San Juan del Rio, an area at the foot of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains dotted with farming and ranching villages whose only water comes from seasonal rains.
Those have been lacking for more than a year in much of Mexico. Its been the country's worst dry spell since 1941, when the government began recording rainfall.
"This is the most severe drought the country has registered," President Felipe Calderon said Thursday at a meeting with governors from the hardest hit states of Durango, Zacatecas, Chihuahua, Coahuila and San Luis Potosi.
Those states average about 21 inches (542 millimeters) of rain annually. This year they got 12 inches (308 millimeters), according to Mexico's National Weather Service.
To the north, Texas also has endured its driest year on record. Since March, Texas has recorded seven of the 10 driest months it has seen during the past 116 years. In August, officials there estimated losses for crops and livestock at $5.2 billion. The drought started last fall with the arrival of the La Nina weather condition that causes below-normal rainfall. To complicate things, the region didn't get much rainfall from hurricanes and tropical storms during the hurricane season that just ended, said David Brown, regional climate services director for the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Fort Worth, Texas.