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The 1986 Lake Nyos Gas Disaster in Cameroon, West Africa FOR THE SECOND TIME IN 2 YEARS THE COUNTRY OFCameroon has been struck by an unusual natural disaster involving the release of lethal gas from crater lakes. The first of these events occurred on 15 August 1984 at Lake Monoun, and it caused the deaths of 37 people (1). The second event on 21 August 1986 was much more devastating. The lethal gas released from Lake Nyos spread for distances up to 10 km from the lake and killed about 1700 people and 3000 cattle (Figs. 1 and 2). To our knowledge, these are the only recorded events in which gas released from lakes has caused the loss of human life. We describe here the results of a field investigation of Lake Nyos that began on 27 August 1986 and involved studies of the surrounding area and nearby lakes and springs. On 21 August at about 2130 a series of rumbling sounds lastingperhaps 15 to 20 seconds caused people in the immediate area of the lake to come out of their homes. One observer reported hearing a bubbling sound, and after walking to a vantage point he saw a white cloud rise from the lake and a large water surge. Many people smelled the odor of rotten eggs or gunpowder, experienced a warm sensation, and rapidly lost consciousness. Survivors of the incident, who awakened from 6 to 36 hours later, felt weak and confused. Many found that their oil lamps had gone out, although they still contained oil, and that their animals and family members were dead. The bird, insect, and small mammal populations in the area were not seen for at least 48 hours after the event. The plant life was essentially unaffected. On the morning of 22 August, people from the surrounding areastarted the grim task of recovery and burial. It was not until the morning of 24 August, after two Swiss missionary helicopter (Helimission) pilots flew into the area, that the "outside world' heard of the incident. At this time the lake surface was calm, but it was littered with floating mats of vegetation and had turned from its normal clear blue color to a rusty red. Vegetation damage showed that a water surge had washed up the southern shore to a height of 25 m. A water surge 6 m high had flowed over the spillway at the northern end of the lake, and a fountain of water or froth had splashed over an 80-m-high rock promontory on the southwestern shore. Geology General geology. A number of small, young basaltic volcanoes haveformed cinder cones and lava flows in northwestern Cameroon along part of the "Cameroon Volcanic Line,' a northeast-southwest trending zone of crustal weakness that extends 1600 km from islands in the Atlantic Ocean into northwestern Cameroon and northeastern Nigeria (2). Volcanic explosions have also formed numerous circular maars, many of which are now occupied by deep crater lakes. The Lake Nyos maar is formed in...
Source Citation (MLA 8 th Edition)
Kling, George W., et al. "The 1986 Lake Nyos gas disaster in Cameroon, West Africa." Science, vol. 236, 1987, p. 169+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 22 Apr. 2019.
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