Lakes Nyos and Monoun disaster: 30 years after
In the night of 21 August 1986, Lake Nyos situated in northwest Cameroon exploded, releasing carbon dioxide (CO2) gas. Two years earlier on 16 August 1984, a similar disaster occurred in Lake Monoun in west Cameroon. Bottom gas-charged waters were brought to the surface releasing CO2 that killed people and their animals. Only 3 lakes in the world, including the 2 in Cameroon present this kind of dangerous natural situation. The geological structure of the lakes is such that gas can accumulate at deeper lake water levels, which can lead at any time to big explosions.
Given the Lake Monoun event, the Lake Nyos disaster raised a lot of questions and immediately mobilized international opinion. Many national and international scientific groups started working on the problem. In addition to national initiatives that included the institution of the Lakes Nyos and Monoun Degassing project under the supervision of the Prime Minister, studies were carried out by Japanese, American and French partners. These resulted in the installation of degassing pipes in the lakes and the reinforcement of the natural dam in Lake Nyos. It can be said today that Lake Monoun is secured while Lake Nyos is in the process of being secured.
During the 8th meeting of the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI) Commission on Volcanic Lakes (CVL) that held in Japan in 2013, Cameroon, via the Institute for Geological and Mining Research (IRGM) was chosen to host the 9th CVL conference
This gives us the opportunity to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Lakes Nyos and Monoun disaster, and show to the public and scientific community, research advances made in degassing the lakes so as to avoid this type of natural disaster.