Main content

The Lake Nyos Disaster

The mysterious death of more than 1,700 villagers and much livestock in north-western Cameroon

On 21 August 1986 villagers in the north-west of Cameroon awoke to find that many of their friends and neighbours had died in their sleep. More than 1,700 people and much of their livestock are thought to have perished as a result of unexpected volcanic activity under Lake Nyos, which produced a cloud of deadly carbon dioxide. Tim Mansel spoke to two scientists who went to find out how it had happened.

Photo: Dead livestock near Lake Nyos (Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Available now

9 minutes

Broadcast

The World War Two collection

The World War Two collection

Looking back at almost six years of global conflict, from Hiroshima to the Holocaust

The Witness History podcast

The Witness History podcast

Every programme, to download and keep

The Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution

From the Bolshevik takeover of 1917 to the break-up of the Soviet Union

When animals made history

When animals made history

Events from history when animals took centre stage

Great moments in Olympic history

Great moments in Olympic history

Stories of endurance, world records and remarkable athletes

African history collection

African history collection

The communities, politics, leaders and events that have shaped Africa

Podcast