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Iranian youths trying to rescue flamingo chicks

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TEHRAN — Some 100 Iranian young people from the southern city of Shiraz have joined a rescue effort to save 2,000 flamingo chicks from certain death, state radio reported Thursday.

Five thousand flamingo chicks were left stranded when the Bakhtegan Lake near Shiraz dried up earlier this summer.

Three thousand chicks who were not old or strong enough to migrate have already died, a local environmental official said. The approximately 2,000 chicks still alive will face certain death if not relocated.

The participants, mostly university students and schoolchildren, have joined employees of the environment department in efforts to take the remaining chicks to the nearby Tashak lake.

But the rescue has been hindered by the general physical weakness of the chicks, the swampiness of areas where the remaining chicks have taken refuge and logistical problems, the official IRNA news agency said.

A United Nations report said earlier this month that Iran's drought, the worst in 30 years, was reaching critical dimensions.

According to the report, 2.8 million tons of wheat crops and 280,000 tons of barley have been destroyed and an estimated 800,000 heads of livestock have died of malnutrition and thirst.

Rainfall this year was less than 140mm (5.5 inches), far below the average 260mm, and rain is not expected until November.

Losses from the drought have been estimated at more than $3.4 billion, which far exceeds the limited emergency funds set up by the government.