Explosion In Lake: The sudden change in the color and smell of Cook Lake, located in the north-west of Cameroon, last month created panic among the local residents. People were horrified remembering an incident from 36 years ago, which took place in Nyos Lake, just 10 km away. On 21 August 1986, deadly gases (mainly carbon dioxide) were emitted from Lake Nyos, which suffocated 1,746 people and about 8,300 animals.
Monom Lake took the lives of 37 irons
This was not the first such incident. Two years ago, Lake Monom, about 100 km southwest of Lake Nyos, killed 37 people. Research conducted to know the causes of the Nyos Lake disaster concluded that carbon dioxide gas emanating from the Earth’s mantle had been accumulating on the bottom of the lake for centuries. Due to the sudden movement in the water of the lake due to the landslide, about 12 lakh 40 thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide gas suddenly came out.
The victims of the accident heard a rumble of thunder before a thick cloud of gas emerged from the lake. This ball of gas killed all the people, animals, insects and birds that came under its control in the valley, then this gas spread into the atmosphere where it became harmless. Both Cook and Nyos are crater lakes located in an area of volcanic activity known as the Cameroonian Volcanic Line. There are 43 other crater lakes in the region, which can contain lethal amounts of gases. Other lakes around the world that pose a similar threat include Lake Kivu on the border with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lake Nozi in Tanzania and Lake Monticchio in Italy.
Cook Lake stir
Its waters turned dark red after Lake Nyos burst, and survivors reported the smell of rotten eggs. These are the same features that have recently appeared in Cook Lake. The change in the color of Lake Nyos was seen only after the gas burst. An official press release linked the heavy rainfall to a change in the smell and color of Cook Lake. Thousands of people living around the lake were urged to ‘remain alert to continuously inform the administration about any further incidents’. Henry Ngenum Bang said that as a geologist and disaster management expert, I believe that adequate measures are not being taken to address and manage the potential threat from crater lakes in the region. Through my experience and research, I have identified several important steps that policy makers should take to prevent another tragedy from occurring.
The expert said that it is important to first know which lakes are at risk of ‘explosion’ to prevent the disaster. Preliminary investigations in some lakes were done more than 30 years ago and that too was not done thoroughly. This investigation was done only once by one team. Further investigation and regular monitoring is required. It is currently believed that, of the 43 crater lakes on Cameroon’s volcanic line, 13 are deep and large enough to contain lethal amounts of gases. Although 11 are considered relatively safe, two (Lake Enep and Oku) are dangerous.
So the risk of explosion is even greater?
Research has shown that the thermal profile (how temperature varies with depth), the amount of dissolved gases, surface area or water volume, and depth are key indicators of the ability of lakes to store large amounts of hazardous gases. The greatest risk factors include: lakes with large amounts of water, at high pressures, at great depths, high amounts of dissolved gases. When lakes are wide or have large depressions, the risk of explosion is even greater when they are stirred.
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