How Did This Strange Lake Suddenly Kill 1,700 People?


At about 9 p. m. on Thursday 21 August 1986 in Cameroon an enormous volume of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas was released from Lake Nyos, a volcanic crater lake in Cameroon. The gas flowed down towards nearby settlements and killed approximately 1,800 people, 3000 cattle, and countless wild animals, birds and insects – in short almost every living creature for miles around. The official human death toll was only an estimate, the reason being that before competent authorities who collected statistics on the mortality rate could reach the disaster area, some survivors had already begun to bury victims in mass graves, and many terrified survivors had even fled corpse-filled villages and hid themselves in the forest. The impact of this event resulted in the massive involuntary resettlement of people from nearby settlements.

The villages that were most affected by the disaster included Cha, Subum and Nyos, situated in Fungom periphery in the North West Region (previously North West Province) of Cameroon. It took two days for a medical team to arrive the lake site after local officials had called the Governor of the Northwest Region to report the strange occurrence. When the doctors and other medical personnel arrived at the lake, they found an unthinkable catastrophe and a fatal disaster far greater than they could have imagined.

Lake Nyos is an active crater lake that formed by an eruption about 5 centuries ago. Nyos and Lake Monoun, located 95km to the southeast of Nyos, are the only two volcanic lakes in the world other than Lake Kivu that contain large amounts of CO2dissolved at depth (Holloway, 2000). Nyos and Monoun both released their gases in the month of August only two years apart from one another.


Known locally as “the Bad Lake,” Lake Nyos, located in the Northwest Region of Cameroon, Africa, carried a folklore of danger, and tales were spoken of an evil spirit which emerged from the lake to kill all those who lived near it. This legend contained the memory of a very real threat.

On August 21, 1986, something in the lake went off. It is unknown what the trigger was – landslide, small volcanic eruption, or even something as small as cold rain falling on an edge of the lake. Whatever the cause, the result was catastrophic. In what is known as a Limnic Eruption, the lake literally exploded, sending a fountain of water over 300 feet into the air and creating a small tsunami. But far more deadly than the water was the gas.

“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 wanted to speak, my breath would not come out…. My daughter was already dead.”

These are the words of Joseph Nkwain, who on August 21, 1986, survived one of the strangest natural disasters in history.


Lake Nyos sits high in a volcanic plain amidst the Cameroon line of volcanoes, which stretches into the Gulf of Guinea. The chain acts as a natural boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon. The lake itself fills a circular maar, formed when groundwater meets hot lava or magma and explodes. The hole from the eruption eventually fills with water, forming a crater lake. Geologists believe the Nyos maar formed about 400 years ago, though the area has been volcanically active since the South American and African tectonic plates split some 110 million years ago.

Despite the inherent dangers of living so close to active volcanoes and dangerous lakes, roughly 10,000 people populate the area. The soil on and around the old volcano is rich and fertile, and even after the 1986 disaster people were eager to return to it.

The unpredictable and dangerous nature of the lake led scientists from around the world to propose solutions that would prevent another carbon dioxide eruption. In 2001, French scientists installed a degassing instrument—mostly a pipe and fountain that allows gas to escape at a consistent rate. Two more pipes were installed in 2011. Scientists have also investigated other African lakes to see if the same phenomenon is possible elsewhere.


Founder of WorldTruth.Tv and Eddie (7432 Posts)

Eddie L. is the founder and owner of WorldTruth.TV. and Both website are dedicated to educating and informing people with articles on powerful and concealed information from around the world. I have spent the last 36+ years researching Bible, History, Alternative Health, Secret Societies, Symbolism and many other topics that are not reported by mainstream media.

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