Ruins of a centuries-old town have emerged at a dam parched by drought in the northern Philippines.

After a prolonged spell of intense heat and little rain, water levels in the dam have fallen to reveal parts of a sunken church, tombstones and the foundations of structures from the 300-year-old town in Nueva Ecija province.

“When I heard about the sunken church of old Pantabangan town resurfacing, I got excited and wanted to see it,” said 61-year-old retired nurse Aurea Delos Santos.

Water levels at the Pantabangan dam have fallen by 26 metres so far this year, with its current level seven metres lower than a year ago.

Tombstones in the cemetery of the old sunken town of Pantabangan see the light of day for the first time since the 1970s. Photograph: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

Some locals have benefited by making it something of an attraction, ferrying tourists to the island. “Back then, I was only earning 200 pesos [$3.50] from fishing, but when the tourists arrived, I’m earning 1,500 to 1,800 per day,” said fisher Nelson Dellera.

The town’s population was relocated in the 1970s during the construction of a dam, which now serves as the main irrigation and water source for Nueva Ecija and nearby provinces, according to the local government.

A drone view shows a centuries-old sunken town that re-emerged amid extreme heat in Pantabangan. Photograph: Adrian Portugal/Reuters

The Philippines and other countries in south-east Asia have been grappling with extreme heat in recent weeks, prompting schools to suspend classes and governments to urge people to stay indoors to prevent heatstroke.

On Thursday, Cambodia blamed the extreme heat for an explosion at an ammunition storage facility that killed 20 soldiers.

The blast – which destroyed an entire truck of munitions and levelled buildings – also wounded several soldiers and at least one child in rural Kampong Speu province on Saturday.

The ruins at Pantabangan have become something of a tourist attraction. Photograph: Jam Sta Rosa/AFP/Getty Images

The defence ministry said that investigators believed the heatwave played a role in the old weapons detonating.

“The incident of the ammunition explosion on April 27, 2024 … was a technical issue because the weapons are old, faulty, and the hot weather,” the ministry said in a statement.

Human-caused climate breakdown is supercharging extreme weather across the world, driving more frequent and more deadly disasters from heatwaves to floods to wildfires. At least a dozen of the most serious events of the last decade would have been all but impossible without human-caused global heating.

With Agence France-Presse

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