The Lake Nyos Disaster

The Lake Nyos Disaster- CO2 Gas Cloud Explosion That Engulfed Lives Of Many Humans And Animals

The Lake Nyos Disaster was a catastrophic explosion that the locals in Africa could not even fathom happened on August 21, 1986, at Lake Nyos, which eventually resulted in the deaths of more than 1500 humans and 3500 animals. What then was the cause of this explosion’s mystery?

Lake Nyos
Lake Nyos

An explosion on Lake Nyos in the African country of Cameroon killed many people and animals. Even though no one could agree on what caused the sudden release of 100,000–300,000 tonnes (or, according to some reports, 1.6 million tonnes) of carbon dioxide when the bomb went off (CO2).

Because of this, the enormous gas cloud that suddenly appeared caused a catastrophe near the lake. The gas cloud soared 100 kilometers at first, then plummeted and became heavier than air. Surprisingly, the reason behind this catastrophe was eventually figured out.

The Lake Nyos Disaster

Some people opined that this could have resulted from an earthquake, but the villagers claimed there were no tremors the morning of the incident. This possibility was thus eliminated. After all, specialists eventually concurred that a volcanic explosion was the cause.

As a result of the fact that the individuals who came to the area to conduct exploration discovered that the gas in the water sample collected from the lake had carbon dioxide, including methane and helium, which was crucial evidence that the explosion was of volcanic origin.

Lake Nyos

As viewers can see in the image above, the lake turned red when oxygen and iron-rich water from the lake’s depths mixed (oxidized) and rose to the surface. It’s interesting to note that after the gas became hazardous, the lake’s water level decreased by around a meter, and all the trees close to the lake abruptly started to fall. Some even asserted that 1.2 meters of gas were released, and for some strange reason, none of the village’s homes were harmed by the gas.

According to scientists, a 100-meter-thick water layer and foam formed on the lake’s surface, generating a huge gas cloud that was at least 25 meters tall and extended all the way to the coast. Settlements close to the lake suffered catastrophic harm as a result of this natural occurrence.

Additionally, the density of the carbon dioxide produced as a result of this water-based layer was 1.5 times greater than that of atmospheric air. The residents of the villages near the lake, including the villages of Nyos, Kam, Subum, and Cha, claimed that the cloud made them feel drowned as they were soundly asleep when the incident took place.

“I could not speak. I became unconscious. I could not open my mouth because then I smelled something terrible … I heard my daughter snoring in a terrible way, very abnormal … When crossing to my daughter’s bed … I collapsed and fell. I was there till nine o’clock in the morning (of Friday, the next day) … until a friend of mine came and knocked at my door … I was surprised to see that my trousers were red, had some stains like honey. I saw some … starchy mess on my body. My arms had some wounds … I didn’t really know how I got these wounds … I opened the door … I wanted to speak, my breath would not come out … My daughter was already dead … I went into my daughter’s bed, thinking that she was still sleeping. I slept till it was 4.30 in the afternoon … on Friday (the same day). (Then) I managed to go over to my neighbours’ houses. They were all dead … I decided to leave … (because) most of my family was in Wum … I got my motorcycle … A friend whose father had died left with me (for) Wum … As I rode … through Nyos I didn’t see any sign of any living thing … (When I got to Wum), I was unable to walk, even to talk … my body was completely weak.

An Account of a survivor.

The gas cloud was extremely threatening and moved at a pace of 20 to 50 kilometers per hour and had a mass of 50 meters. The deadly cloud that is officially to blame for nightmares claimed 1,746 human lives and 3,500 animal lives, according to published data.

Approximately 4,000 People Fled The Village After The Lake Nyos Disaster

Consider the fact that even individuals who fled the village started to experience various ailments, such as breathing difficulties and paralysis, brought on by the gas cloud. A few residents also reported the odor of rotten eggs. Authorities believe that the smell of rotten eggs reported by several survivors in the community is a combination of other volcanic gases and carbon dioxide. However, as carbon dioxide was the only gas that had ever been discovered in the lake’s water, it was blamed as the incident’s primary cause.

However, still, the main cause of the emergence of this deadly cloud was volcanoes that were still erupting underground, so this assumption was obviously incorrect. According to US Geological Survey employee Michelle Tuttle, only four of the 1200 residents of the village of Nyos survived the incident. In other words, the 1,700-death rate is an estimate based on the overall number of fatalities in neighboring communities.

As you can see, it’s extremely unsettling that there were only enough survivors to count them on one hand’s fingers. Also, experts say that up to 3,000 people may have actually died, but the number of deaths was hidden because the bodies were buried to stop the disease from spreading in the area.

The country’s capital, Yaounde, has a hospital where the explosion survivors were treated. Initially, it was thought that these people had been poisoned with sulfur and hydrogen, but later investigations and interviews with survivors revealed that carbon dioxide was actually the prime culprit.

According to the survivors, the deceased passed away and lost consciousness swiftly. In reality, a gas leak occurred once more as the scientists were inspecting the settlement, but as they were on a slope above the lake, they came out unharmed. It was only a matter of time before another eruption took place because the problem’s root was subsurface volcanic lava. This is why a degassing system was installed in the lake. Since 1995, numerous research has been done in this area, and in 2001, gas mask tubes were supposed to be installed in the lake. Again in 2011, certain pipes were fitted into the lake.

gas filtration system
gas filtration system

Finally, a sturdy solution could be found in 2019 by constructing a rather sturdy gas filtration system. These degassing lines were installed with the intention of maintaining acceptable levels of carbon dioxide, which they did. As a result, emissions of gases like carbon dioxide are no longer a threat to the lives of people in the area.

However, despite all these findings and claims, what triggered the catastrophic outgassing is still not known. What are your views on this deadly occurrence? Share it with us in the comment section.

Reference- Britannica.com


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