The number of people facing drinking water shortages in China has more than doubled to 5.9 million because of a severe winter drought, state media reported.

The figures released late on Friday jumped from 2.43 million a week earlier, a Chinese news agency said, citing figures from the State Flood and Drought Relief Headquarters.

A spokesman was quoted as saying that the situation was due to lingering and severe winter drought.

The number of livestock without sufficient drinking water had jumped to 5.67 million from 1.89 million, and 15.8 million hectares of land (39 million acres) have been affected compared to 2.9 million hectares at the same time last year, it said.

Northeastern parts of the country have been hardest hit by the drought accounting for 60 percent of the drought-hit area, with rainfall in northern China down 70 percent this winter, it added.

Severe water shortages are being felt across China. Drought has seen parts of the Yangtze river hitting their lowest water levels in at least 140 years, leading to more than 40 ships running aground since October, state media said in January.

There are concerns the drought, combined with last month's severe cold snap, could lead to further upward pressure on food prices, with inflation already at record levels in staple foods such as pork.