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Thousands of animals die in historic drought in Mexico

Thousands of dead fish covered the surface of a lagoon in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, with local authorities saying the phenomenon was caused by an intense drought.

Fish deaths in Bustillos Lagoon, near the city of Anahuac in Chihuahua, occurred during long periods of drought and when temperatures rose above 40ºC. Water levels in the lagoon are dangerously low, authorities said.

Nearly 90% of Mexico is currently experiencing some level of drought, the highest rate since 2011, according to government data. The state of Chihuahua has been hit particularly hard, with most of its territory engulfed by the most extreme levels of drought.

There was much less water in the lagoon for the fish to live in and the rest of the water was of poor quality, according to Irma de la Pena, head of the Department of Ecology in the city of Cuauhtemoc.

“When the amount of water decreases, pollutants become more concentrated and therefore also affect the species that live here,” said De la Pena.

Mass fish deaths in the area had occurred in previous years when the lagoon dried up, stranding fish.

Livestock, including cows and donkeys, also died as dams emptied and farmers struggled to secure water.

The heat and drought became so severe that many people who depend on agriculture packed up and left.

“It’s very abandoned because it doesn’t rain… they no longer dare to continue living here,” said Jesus Maria Palacios, a cattle rancher in Cuauhtemoc.

At the lagoon, local authorities rush to cover dead fish with quicklime, worried that their rapid decomposition under the scorching sun could endanger public health by attracting insects and spreading disease. They are asking local organizations for help.

“What we need is support, especially given the potential we have for a health problem,” said Saul Sausameda, president of the Anahuac community.

Source: CNN Brasil

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