The Deadly Mist From The Lake Nyos incident!
On the morning of August 21st 1986 an unusual mist slowly crept through the villages and towns surrounding Lake Nyos in Northwest Cameroon. At first the people in the area were not concerned, as fog coming from the lake was a common occurrence.
However, it soon became apparent this wasn’t an ordinary fog. As any living creature unlucky enough to be caught in it’s path quickly lost the ability to breathe and died of asphyxiation shortly after coming Into contact with the deadly mist. Everything, including humans, animals and insects would all succumb to the deadly mist that was slowly overtaking the villages of Northwest Cameroon.
Loss of Life During the lake Nyos Incident!
The loss of life during the Lake Nyos Incident was catastrophic for the villages around the lake. With nearly 2000 people being killed and the complete destruction of 4 entire villages surrounding Lake Nyos in Cameroon.
Not to mention the thousands upon thousands of livestock and other animals that were killed by the deadly mist that swept through the villages surrounding Lake Nyos on the morning of August 21st, 1986.
Cattle that had taken the villagers and their ancestors generations to aquire. In this region of the world, cattle is basically their banking system. With the family who owns the most cattle being considered the wealthiest. On the morning the mist began billowing from Lake Nyos, the few villagers lucky enough to survive had lost their entire families along with becoming destitute due to being wiped out financially.
What was the deadly mist that killed thousands during the Lake Nyos Incident?
Initially scientist were baffled by the deadly mist from Lake Nyos. No one seemed to have a plausible answer to the mystery. This left many in the region to look towards the supernatural for an origin to the destruction.
However, after a time it was discovered the mist had been caused by a new type of natural disaster never seen before. This new killer from nature was named a limnic eruption. The limnic eruption triggered the sudden release of about 100,000–300,000 tons (1.6 million tons, according to some sources) of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the surrounding countryside.
The event resulted in the supersaturated deep water rapidly mixing with the upper layers of the lake, where the reduced pressure allowed the stored CO2 to effervesce out of solution. It is believed that about 1.2 cubic kilometres of gas was released by the eruption.
The gas cloud initially rose at nearly 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph; 28 m/s) and then, being heavier than air, descended onto nearby villages, displacing all the air and suffocating people and livestock within 25 kilometres (16 mi) of the lake.
What Triggered the Limnic Eruption at The Lake Nyos Incident?
Still to this day, the event that triggered the catastrophic outgassing is not known. Most geologists suspect a landslide, but some believe that a small volcanic eruption may have occurred on the bed of the lake. A third possibility is that cool rainwater falling on one side of the lake triggered the overturn.
Others still believe there was a small earthquake, but because witnesses did not report feeling any tremors on the morning of the disaster, this hypothesis is unlikely.
It is a possibility that other volcanic gases were released along with the CO2, as some survivors reported a smell of gunpowder or rotten eggs which indicates that sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide were present at concentrations above their odour thresholds. However, CO2 was the only gas detected in samples of lake water, suggesting that this was the predominant gas released and as such the main cause of the incident.
Aftermath of The Lake Nyos Incident!
The normally blue waters of Lake Nyos turned a deep red after the outgassing, due to iron-rich water from the deep rising to the surface and being oxidised by the air. The level of the lake dropped by about a metre and trees near the lake were knocked down.
The gas cloud was concentrated enough to suffocate as many as 2,000 people in their sleep in the villages of Nyos, Kam, Cha, and Subum. Another 4,000 inhabitants fled the area, and many of these developed respiratory problems, lesions, and paralysis as a result of the gas cloud.
Reporters in the area described the scene as,
“looking like the aftermath of a neutron bomb.”
One survivor, Joseph Nkwain from Subum, described himself when he awoke after the gases had struck:
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.”
Following the limnic eruption, many survivors were treated at the main hospital in Yaoundé, the country’s capital. It was believed that many of the victims had been poisoned by a mixture of gases that included hydrogen and sulfur. Poisoning by these gases would lead to burning pains in the eyes and nose, coughing and signs of asphyxiation similar to being strangled.
Studies into the Mysterious Mist from The Lake Nyos Incident!
Interviews with survivors and pathologic studies indicated that victims rapidly lost consciousness and that death was caused by CO2 asphyxiation. At nonlethal levels, CO2 can produce sensory hallucinations, such that many people exposed to CO2 report the odor of sulfuric compounds when none are present. Skin lesions found on survivors represent pressure sores, and in a few cases exposure to a heat source, but there is no evidence of chemical burns or of flash burns from exposure to hot gases.
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