You might call it an act of God. A severe drought in Venezuela has exposed a church—pictured in 2008 (left) and on February 21, 2010—that had been inundated when a hydroelectric dam was built in 1985.
The 82-foot-tall (25-meter-tall) church and the Andean town of Potosi (see map) were flooded to establish the Uribante-Caparo water reservoir to power the plant, which is currently operating at just 7 percent of its capacity, according to the Reuters service. (Get news on the global water crisis.)
The church is now an ominous symbol of energy shortages in the country, which gets around 68 percent of its power from hydroelectricity, Reuters reported. The droughts spurred Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to declare an energy emergency in February.
Photographs by Diario La Nacion, Reuters (left) and Jorge Silva, Reuters (right)
Hell or High Water
In a little over a year, the Venezuelan church went from almost fully submerged (pictured in January 2009) to bone dry (February 21, 2010).
The drought that caused the rapid decline has been linked to El Niño, a climate phenomenon that occurs every two to seven years and changes worldwide weather patterns. During an El Niño event—such as the current one, which began in summer 2009—the Pacific Ocean warms up near equatorial South America and disrupts large-scale atmospheric circulation.
Photographs by Diario La Nacion, Reuters (top) and Jorge Silva, Reuters (bottom)
But It's a Dry Heat
The Uribante-Caparo water reservoir has not only dried out but also warmed up between January 2009 (top) and February 21, 2010 (bottom), Reuters reports.
Engineers are alarmed by a 5.4-degree Fahrenheit (3-degree Celsius) average temperature rise in the now empty reservoir in 2010, which may be due to deforestation and global warming, among other factors, according to the news service.
Photograph by Diario La Nacion, Reuters (top) and courtesy CORPOELEC via Reuters (bottom)
Breaking the Surface
Before the current drought, the jutting steeple of the church (pictured in an undated file photo) acted as a depth gauge for the hydroelectric plant's reservoir.
After water levels had fallen precipitously, other remnants of the former 1,200-person village emerged, such as ruined houses, a cemetery, and a town square, Reuters reported.