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Cameroon: death by suffocation.

Cameroon: Death by suffocation

The more than 1,500 people who perished after a gaseous cloud escaped from Lake Nyos in Cameroon on Aug. 25 (SN:8/30/86, p.133) probably died of suffocation, the Agency for International Development (AID) announced at a press briefing this week. After interviewing survivors and performing autopsies on humans and animals, a medical team sent by AID tentatively concluded that the victims became unconscious within seconds of exposure a carbon dioxide, along with hydrogen sulfide compounds. They died shortly thereafter of respiratory or cardiac failure. The pathologists found no evidence that cyanide or carbon monoxide was involved in the deaths. They also determined that acids containing sulfur caused the skin burns on many victims.

In addition, according to M. Peter McPherson of AID, a geosciences team "reports that the best evidence, as of this time, is that this disaster was not the result of an earthquake or of volcanic activity.' McPherson says they are still not certain what caused the normally still bottom waters of the lake to come to the surface, releasing the gas cloud. One possibility is that heavy rains in the region prior to the disaster might have caused sediments to slide and disrupt the bottom waters. McPherson says that the Cameroon government has asked the geoscientists to evaluate the hazards of other lakes in the region, and that AID has agreed to fund that study.
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Title Annotation:lethal cloud from lake
Author:Weisburd, Stefi
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 6, 1986
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