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Eco-autopsy of the lake Nyos disaster in Cameroon

150 pages
The Nyos disaster is a terriic and unprecedented environmental tragedy that took in 1986.This is a synopsis of highly specialized scientific research, information in newspapers, documents and articles in specialized media, information from the radio, the television or oral literature from concerned scientists, anthropologists, sociologists or victims that are directly linked to this geo-hazards that killed thousands in Nyos.

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Eco-Autsy of t E LA E Nys AjeAgAh Gideon AghAindum
Dis Ast Er i N cA mEroo N
30 years after calamity
Te Nyos disaster is a terrifc and unprecedented environmental
tragedy that took place on Tursday, 21st of August, 1986, at
9pm. Tis is a synopsis of highly specialized scientifc research, Ec-Atsy of t E LA E Nys
information in newspapers, documents and articles in specialized
media, information from the radio, the television or oral literature Dis Ast Er i N cA mEroo N
from concerned scientists, anthropologists, sociologists or victims that
30 years after calamityare directly linked to this geo-hazards that killed thousands in Nyos.
Te goal is to pay tribute to the victims of this devastating happening
and insinuate lessons on how to avoid such a disaster. If hypercapnia
could be incriminated in this incident, it is but evident that the
meromicticity of the lake was already a great danger for the national
and international community. Can early warning signals, degasifcation,
delimitation of a security belt around the lake unravel this puzzle?
Lake Nyos is a suitable candidate for a UNESCO world heritage site.
Prof. Ajeagah Gideon Aghaindum of the University of
Yaounde 1 is a holder of a PhD and numerous postdocs in
the biological sciences, water modelling and environmental
engineering. He is an international consultant in universities,
organizations and governments across the globe on the
sustainable protection of aquatic resources.
Email: ajeagahg@yahoo.com;
Cover picture by the author.
ISBN : 978-2-343-12224-3
16,50 €
Ec-At sy of t E LA E Nys Dis Ast Er i N cA mEr N
AjeAgAh Gideon AghAindum

Eco-autopsy of the Lake Nyos
disaster in Cameroon
30 years after calamity


Eco-autopsy of the Lake Nyos
disaster in Cameroon
30 years after calamity

By the same author

Water as a weapon of international confrontations, L’Harmattan, 2017

© L’Harmattan, 2017
5-7, rue de l’École-Polytechnique, 75005 Paris
ISBN : 978-2-343-12224-3
EAN : 9782343122243


This book is dedicated to all those who lost their
lives in the outrageous Lake Nyos disaster of
august 1986.


DEDICATION ................................................................... 7
TABLE OF CONTENTS ................................................... 9
INTRODUCTION ........................................................... 11
HISTORY OF LAKE NYOS........................................... 39
CHAPTER II THE 1986 GAS DISASTER .................... 51
.......................................................................................... 61
POPULATION .............................................................. 101
BIBLIOGRAPHY .......................................................... 135


One morning a man was riding on his bicycle from
Wum which is the divisional headquarters of the
Menchum Division in the North West region of Cameroon
to the Nyos village which harbours the famous Lake Nyos.
On the way, he was as elated as he noticed an antelope
lying dead next to the roadside. He descended quickly,
danced and raised his arms in appreciation to the highest
God (na some lucky day this) tied the antelope on his
bicycle and continued his journey. A short distance
further, he noticed an arithmetic progression of dead rats
and further on a dead dog and then a geometric
progression of other dead domestic and wild animals. He
was so dumbfounded by the cinema that was unravelling
before his own eyes. He soon came upon a group of huts
and the usual morning bustling and hustling that
accompanies wake ups in a typical rural setting in an
African community was very absent. He decided to verify,
if someone in these compounds could give him a concrete
explanation on what harm the animals had committed to
be dragged to such a merciless death sentence. He was
very astonished to see dead bodies of people and domestic
animals scattered all over in the compounds in a half
hazard manner. There was no living soul in the
neighbourhood, and nobody could bare witness to this
scene of desperation that was unravelling before his very
eyes. The man threw away his bicycle with the antelope
on it in total nervousness, desperation and ran helter

squelter, back to Wum which is the divisional
headquarters of the Menchum Division, in order to spread
the information to whoever could lend a helping hand or
hear this terrible news. All sums up inadvertently that
what had taken place in the Nyos village and the mystery
to be unravelled in the following pages , classifies the lake
Nyos rumble as the ‘Deadliest lakes in the entire universe’
as classified by the Guinness world books of records in
2008. In the middle of an August night in 1986 a misty
cloud of carbon dioxide bubbled out of the bowel of the
lake and swept silently down the surrounding valleys –
slaying down thousands of animals and 1700 people(the
young, the adults and the aged), many in their very deep

Figure 1A: Flow of the deadly carbon dioxide in the lake
It is estimated that more than three thousand five
hundred livestock died in this disaster. When the man got
back to Wum, he met the first contingency of survivors of
what history will hold as one of the deadliest event that
has ever betook mankind in relation to geo-aquatic
accidents. Many told tales of hearing an explosion or
rumbling noise in the distance , then smelling strange
smells as that of rotten eggs and passing out for as long as
36 hours before walking up to discover that everyone
around them has passed to eternity. They narrated that the
stdisaster occurred on Thursday the 21 of August 1986, at
9pm, after a busy market day. A powerful explosion or a
occurred in the lake Nyos, and about three minutes later, a
violent tornado started blowing vehemently towards the
villages of Fang, Chai, lower Nyos and Subum. The gas
was very hot and suffocated all living creatures on its
passage, afflicting burns, respiratory impairments,
intestinal disorders and nervous disarray. It has been
alleged that the lake has been boiling for five days before
the incident, and that it even got dry by the year 1978,
giving it the nickname, the Bad Lake, because a legend
holds it that an evil spirit came out from the lake and
killed all those who lived around it. It was nearly
productivity and biodiversity is still a jigsaw puzzle.
It took two days for medical doctors to arrive the
disaster area after local officials called the Governor of the
North West Province of Cameroon to report the strange
occurrence. The medical practitioners who arrived on
Saturday at 6pm in a military plane were headed by the
director of health Professor Lazarre Kaptue, others were
veteran medical practitioners such as Pr Simo Moyou
(Parasitologists and Anaesthesiologists (a physician
trained in anesthesia and perioperative medicine)), Pr
Muna (Cardiologists). They were also accompanied by
other seasoned medics in the domain of internal medicine,
respiratory diseases and epidemiology. They were
flabbergasted by the number of dead people, cattle, wild
animals and domestic animals that vanished in the disaster
and littered all around the Nyos vicinity. Some of the
survivors started to bury their victims in mass graves and
many terrified survivors had vamoosed the corpse filled
villages and took refuge in far off forest. On the night of
this sad event, one of the victims was in his mud-brick
house on a cliff above Nyos, a crater lake in the volcanic
highlands of northwest Cameroon. A half-moon lit the
water and the hills and valleys beyond. Around 9 p.m., this
parent, a subsistence farmer with four children, heard a
rumbling that sounded like a rockslide. Then a strange
white mist rose from the lake. He told his children that it
looked as if rain were on the way and went to bed, feeling
sick. He did not know that this noise was the beginning of
a very unfriendly gesture between animals, plants and
Mother Nature, which was playing very intriguing and
unholy movies. These were symptoms of an encounter
between the living and the stagnant world. Lake Nyos was
the epicentre of a rather strange phenomenon that has put
man, domestic and wild animals on their knees.
In the outlying villages, many people especially those
who had remained inside their homes, had survived from
the squeamishness of the invading plume, while in the
Nyos village, which is less than two miles away, and
which is the closest village to the lake, only half a dozen
of more than 800 inhabitants were still able to see the light
of day. Dead cattle were found as high as 300 feet above
the lake, indicating that the suffocating cloud shot at least
that high before settling back onto the surface then
spreading downwards. It became seemingly clear that one
of the strangest phenomenon’s as far as geo-environmental
hazards have taken place in the Nyos area of Cameroon.
thOn Sunday the 24 of August 1984, His Excellency
President Paul Biya arrived in Bamenda to personally
acquaint himself with the gravity of the situation and pay
condolences to the bereaved families. He declared a day of
National mourning in remembrance and prayers for all the
victims of the disaster. He was received in Bamenda by
Gorvernor Walson Ntuba, the commander of the infantry,
General James Tataw, and the Vice President of the
Mezam CPDM, Mr. D.A. Atia. He held numerous high