RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ A severe drought has prompted officials in an impoverished northeastern Brazilian state to declare a state of emergency in 26 cities, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The drought has destroyed more than half the area's agricultural crops, affecting thousands in the southern part of Piaui state, 1,500 miles north of Rio de Janeiro.

``Many of these municipalities haven't seen rain for a year,'' Osmar Araujo, Piaui's civil defense secretary, was quoted as telling the daily Folha de Sao Paulo.

In Avelino Lopes, the only water for the municipality's 12,000 inhabitants comes from a single truck. Local officials predict widespread starvation if state and federal authorities don't react soon.

Last year, 221 towns declared a state of emergency as the northeast suffered its worst drought in 15 years.

The drought-plagued northeast has 45 million residents.

Most victims are subsistence farmers.