37 years after: Lake Nyos disaster survivors still in tears! (2024)

Thirty-seven years after the catastrophe broke out, survivors of the disaster, which killed over 1,700 persons, including thousands of animals, say they feel abandoned.

They have since been groaning and grumbling in silence.

The Anglophone crisis, which since 2017 morphed into an armed conflict, seems to have made matters worse for the survivors of the disaster, who are spread across seven settlement camps in Menchum and Boyo Divisions of the restive North West Region.

The survivors now appear to be facing a second disaster amidst the ongoing armed conflict in the two English-speaking Regions of the country.

Government has been accused of looking away while several survivors have been forced to flee resettlement camps, due to sporadic gunshots and killings.

Most of the promises made by Yaounde, when the calamity befell the area, are yet to be fulfilled.

Survivors who spoke to The Guardian Post yesterday, say they lack basic amenities for survival.

Most of the survivals in Bua Bua and Kimbi resettlement camps, confessed to be living in abject misery and under life-threatening conditions.

Speaking to The Guardian Post yesterday, which coincided with the 37th anniversary of the disaster, the National President of the Kimbi-Buabua Lake Nyos Survivors Development Association, BUKILSDA, Mary Kimbi Yuabang, was categorical that government has done very little to assist victims of the gas disaster that struck the villages of Chah, Nyos and Su-bum, 37 years ago.

Mary Kimbi said the situation of the survivors at the moment remains very “horrible and deplorable due to the ongoing armed conflict in the North West and South West Regions”.

Kimbi said survivors in most of the resettlement camps “are like facing another disaster”.

“The settlement camps in Bua Bua and Kimbi, were burnt down by Fulanis, so the people are in dire need of shelter and many other things,” she said.

“The people need urgent rehabilitation because there are no homes. They lack houses and schools. The lone Secondary School that was in Bua Bua, wind came and blew off the roof,” Kimbi tear-provokingly disclosed.

She continued that: “Before the Anglophone crisis began, we were expecting a giant project from the United Nations. It is a 24 billion FCFA project. Through the project, the UN was to reconstruct houses and many other facilities. But because of the Anglophone crisis, the project has been abandoned”.

“…we are now only waiting for the reconstruction project of the North West and South West Regions so the survivors can benefit. We are hoping that they will pay special attention to the situation of Lake Nyos disaster survivors…though the process is very slow,” she added.

Kimbi told The Guardian Post that the situation of the more than 40 families in Bua Bua is uniquely preoccupying.

“The families now live in clusters, in small houses that were not destroyed by fire. Most of them fled the village to Fundong (in Boyo Division), some went as far as Douala and Yaounde. However, because of the standard of living in those cities, they have all come back home. There are now struggling to put up huts and small tents for themselves to get shelter,” she concluded.

Failed promises, little hope

Besides asking for basic amenities in the various settlement camps, survivors of the Lake Nyos gas explosion have also been requesting government to facilitate return to their ancestral land.

Over 12,000 people are said to be currently living in camps in Menchum, following the August 1986 disaster, during which carbon dioxide spewed out of the nearby volcanic lake, engulfing villages and killing over 1,746 people.

In 2013, North West Governor, Adolphe Lele Lafrique, who doubles as head of the Lake Nyos Disaster Management Committee, announced that survivors would be relocated to the Nyos area. He did not however say when and how they would be repatriated. The survivors have since been in a long wait for government’s intervention.

While still in the resettlement camps, the survivors are begging for basic health, education and other necessities, which are said to be several kilometres away from them.

Deadliest disaster in Cameroon…

It should be recalled that on August 21, 1986, one of the strangest and most mysterious natural disasters in history took place in Lake Nyos, Menchum Division of the North West Region.

Without warning, the lake released hundreds of thousands of tonnes of toxic carbon dioxide, suffocating an estimated1,746 people and more than 3,500 livestock within minutes.

The effect was as devastating as it was swift, and with the severity of a Biblical plague, it felled locals and wildlife alike by starving the air of oxygen within a 25-km radius of the lake.

Many people from the villages of Cha, Nyos and Subum, were silently killed in their sleep. Some were found with bloodaround their noses and mouths.

When the few remaining survivors woke up, they found no disturbances, no violence, just corpses. Even the flieshad dropped dead.

37 years after: Lake Nyos disaster survivors still in tears! (2024)

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