Officials say Vietnam's southern Mekong Delta, the country's main rice growing region, is experiencing the worst drought and saline intrusion in recent history.

State media quoted a government report as saying some 575,000 people were short of fresh water. According to the Foreign Ministry, neighboring China has doubled the amount of water discharged from a dam to help alleviate the crisis.

Officials blame the drought on the El Nino weather phenomenon and excessive construction of hydropower dams on the upper stream of the river.

Ma Quang Trung, a department director at the Agriculture Ministry, said Thursday that the level of inland saline intrusion was unprecedented, resulting in damage to some 180,000 hectares (444,780 acres) of paddy fields.