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Lake Nyos 30 Years After: Survivors Still Struggling To Survive 

By Bouddih Adams

Lake Nyos dead cattie 3At sunset on August 21, 1986, inhabitants (mostly farmers and herders) of the neighbourhoods of Lake Nyos in Menchum Division of the then Northwest Region of Cameroon, heard a loud rumble from the lake. When they came out of their houses to see what was amidst, they were suffocated by a gas that emanated from the lake.

(Read the stories about Lake Nyos, what happened, testimonies, arguments, interviews and explanations, plus what is happening today to the survivors, on pages 7 – 10).

Three theories were established as to the cause of the gas that killed almost 2,000 people and 3,500 livestock in the villages around the lake: the first (native belief) was that some mystical beings (gods) was living and lurking in the lake and for some unfathomable reason got annoyed with the people and meted their wrath on them.

The second (scientific) explanation was that carbon-dioxide, CO2, had collected into several cubic kilometres at the bottom of the water and, being a crater lake, there was a volcanic eruption or landslide within that overturned the waters bringing the deadly CO2 on top, which flowed down and killed human and animal lives in the villages of Nyos, Subum, Chah, Fang, Koshing and so on.

The third was that a neutron bomb had been tested in the lake. Survivors narrated that they had been some strange visitors (mostly whites) to the lake days before the explosion; hence the visitors explored the area and dropped “something” into the lake causing the explosion and resultant disaster.

The explosion was akin to what happened in Lake Monoun in the West Region two years earlier (1984) leaving 37 people dead.

Till date, there are people who believe it was a bomb tested in Lake Nyos. The first journalist (now retired) to visit Nyos following the disaster, Martin Nkemngu of State-run Cameroon Tribune [SOPECAM], maintains that nothing happens which has never happened before in the history of the world.

According to him, what happened in Lake Nyos, even scientists agreed, has never occurred anywhere in history.

“Since then, have you heard any of such a happening anywhere,” he quips.

However, scientist say Lake Kivu which lies on the borders between DR Congo and Rwanda has the same characteristics as Lake Nyos, only it waters are a thousand times more than that Nyos and population around it is also many times denser.

The survivors who were displaced and or relocated have been asked to go back and resettle on their ancestral land, after efforts made since 2001 by Government with the support of international bodies at degassing the lake and making the area safe again.

Rev. Father Ten Horn, who was one of the first people to arrive on the scene and who told the world through the Voice of America, VOA, in an interview narrates what he saw and lived.

Meanwhile, the Lake Nyos Disaster victims aver that they have been abandoned to fate, unlike victims of the NsamFire Disaster (February 14, 1998 ),whoreceive gifts year-in year out by State authorities.

The Nsam Fire victims had come out with containers to collect fuel after a petrol tanker train collided with another freight train and fuel was spilling, a fireball erupted from a flash fire sparked apparently by a cigarette dropped by smoker, burning and killing over 200 people.

(Read the stories about Lake Nyos, what happened, testimonies, arguments, interviews and explanations, plus what is happening today to the survivors, on pages 7 – 10).

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