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Extreme heatwave exposes submerged church and triggers water shortages in Mexico

The Temple of Quechula church emerging from the Malpaso Dam after water levels dropped due to the drought.
The Temple of Quechula church emerging from the Malpaso Dam after water levels dropped due to the drought. Copyright RAUL VERA/AFP or licensors
Copyright RAUL VERA/AFP or licensors
By Joanna AdhemAFP
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This colonial-era church submerged in a reservoir in Mexico has been exposed due to drought and high temperatures.

A colonial-era church submerged in a reservoir in southern Mexico has been revealed due to the ongoing drought and heatwave plaguing the country.

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The 16th-century Dominican Temple of Quechula is located in the state of Chiapas. The Roman Catholic construction had been mostly submerged when a dam was built on the Grijalva River. Tourists used to arrive by boat to visit the partially submerged church.

However, high temperatures and the absence of rain, which have claimed eight lives across Mexico in the past week, have completely exposed the structure. Visitors now arrive at its doors in cars and on motorcycles.

"It's very beautiful and impressive to see that the small church still exists after so many years," says José Eduardo Zea, who visited the temple on his motorcycle with a friend.

Mexico’s drought is devastating for fishermen

The low water level in the reservoir is starting to affect the local fishermen, who also engage in tilapia fish farming.

"About five months ago, the water started to recede excessively, going beyond the normal levels," says Darinel Gutiérrez, a fisherman in the area. "How am I supposed to support my family? Right now, I have nothing."

"When it rains, even hills collapse, but right now, there's nothing," adds Dagoberto Gómez, who is also involved in tilapia farming.

The heatwave affecting Mexico is not exclusive to Chiapas. Other regions of the country, such as Yucatán in the south and Nuevo León in the north, have recorded temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius.

Even in Mexico City, where the climate is milder, the temperature has reached 35 degrees in the past week.

Mexico’s heatwave has caused eight deaths and impacted millions

This marks the country's third heatwave of the year, and experts warn that it could persist for another two weeks.

The oppressive heat takes its toll not only on labourers but also on street food vendors, whose goods rapidly spoil.

In Monterrey, a prosperous city in the northeast, the conditions are gruelling. With temperatures surpassing 40°C, the city faces a water shortage crisis due to last year's historic drought.

Additionally, high electricity demand, driven by the use of air conditioning, has led to power cuts. This leaves residents without any means of cooling.

To mitigate the impact on children, the government of Nuevo Leon state, where Monterrey is located, has limited in-person school attendance to two hours a day to avoid exposing students to the harsh climate.

As Mexico battles this relentless heatwave, authorities and individuals alike are scrambling to adapt and protect themselves. The need for constant hydration and refrigeration of delicate items has become paramount.

Watch the video above to see the Temple of Quechula exposed by drought.

Video editor • Joanna Adhem

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