A silent killer swept through a tiny village and killed everything in its sight – over just one night.
At around 9pm on the night of August 21, 1986, the people of a tiny West African village called Nyos heard a deep rumbling sound, like distant thunder.
The next morning one of the villagers, Ephraim Che , woke up to find that virtually everyone he knew was dead.
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He walked in a daze through the deserted and eerily quiet village, drawn by the sound of a woman crying. As he came closer he realised the woman was someone he knew, Halima Suley.
She had torn her clothes off in hysterical grief, and Ephraim realised that the shapeless bundles of cloth around her feet were the bodies of her children.
Halima cried: "Ephraim! Come over here! Why are these people lying down? Why won't they move again?"
Not far from the bodies of his neighbour's children, podcaster Mr Ballen explained, Ephraim saw over 30 other members of her family and their 400 cattle.
Halima was desperately shaking her father, trying to make him wake up.
"On that day there were no flies on the dead," recalled Ephraim. Even insects had been struck by the invisible killer.
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Most of the victims were found exactly where they would normally be at around 9pm, suggesting that they had died without even realising there was anything wrong.
In all, 1,746 people and some 3,500 farm animals had died when a freak plume of carbon dioxide had risen from nearby Lake Nyos.
Other survivors told similar stories, with Monica Lom Ngong explaining to the BBC: ”I was sitting, just sitting among the dead people inside the house, some of them were outside, some of them behind the houses and it was animals lying everywhere…
”Cows, dogs, cows, everything, I was so confused by then. All the family, we were 56, but 53 died."
A few others died in the days following the disaster, so overcome with grief at losing their entire families that they chose to end their own lives.
A total of 1.6million tons of the carbon dioxide had tumbled into the nearby valley, suffocating almost every living thing.
The lake’s normally blue waters had turned blood-red, as iron-rich water from deep in the lake had become exposed to the air.
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Although CO2 has no detectable odour, some survivors reported a foul smell – resembling gunpowder or rotten eggs – coming from the lake, suggesting that a minor volcanic eruption may have triggered the outgassing.
The bizarre incident is rare, but not unique.
Similar events that have killed bears and other wildlife, have been recorded in Yellowstone National park in the US.
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And two years before, in a less isolated part of Cameroon, carbon dioxide gas had poured out of Lake Monoun which is about 60 miles south of Nyos.
In that smaller event, some 40 people lost their lives. Haraldur Sigurdsson, a volcanologist from the University of Rhode Island, described it as the phenomenon "a hitherto unknown natural hazard" that could wipe out entire towns
At the time, Sigurdsson’s theories were dismissed by many of his fellow-scientists.
Until the horrific incident at Lake Nyos, which has led to renewed study and precautions being taken in lakes all around the world.
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