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Drought conditions leave up to 2,000 fish dead in Neuse River

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RALEIGH (AP) -- State environmental officials are blaming the drought for the deaths of up to 2,000 dead catfish found near the mouth of the Neuse River.

The fish were found Monday in Upper Broad Creek near New Bern. Officials say they likely ded from excess exposure to salt water. They believe the saline water, aided by wind and low river levels, mixed into normally fresh water habitats.

The Neuse River originates in North Carolina's Piedmont and empties into Pamlico Sound near New Bern on the central North Carolina coast. Officials are looking to see if the problem is happening elsewhere.

North Carolina faced one of the hottest and driest months on record in August, a culmination of weather conditions that put more than three-quarters of the state under a severe drought as of Monday. The entire state has been suffering from some level of drought for at least two weeks, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

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