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The Oku volcanic field is made of maars. Lake Nyos is inside the crater of one of the maars that formed about 400 years ago. The maar formed during an explosive eruption of carbon dioxide gas. The lake is about 5,900 feet (1,800 m) across and 682 feet (208 m) deep.
On August 21,1986, a cloud of carbon dioxide gas was released from Lake Nyos. Because carbon dioxide is more dense than air it hugged the ground and flowed down valleys. The cloud traveled as far as 15 miles (25 km) from the lake. It was moving fast enough to flatten vegetation, including a few trees. 1,700 deaths were caused by suffocation. 845 people were hospitalized.
Sources of Information:
Fitton, J. G., 1980, The Benue Trough and Cameroon Line- a migrating rift system in West Africa: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 51, p. 132-138.
Le Marechal, A., 1975a, Carte geologique de l'ouest du Cameroun et de l' Adamaoua, 1:1,000,000; ORSTOM.
Le Marechal, A., 1975b, Directions structurales de l'ouest du Cameroun et de l'Adamaoua, 1:1,000,000; ORSTOM.
Evans, W.C., Kling, G.W., Tuttle, M.L., Tanyileke, G., and White, L.D., 1993, Gas buildup in Lake Nyos, Cameroon: The recharge process and its consequences: Applied Geochemistry, v. 8, p. 207-221.
Evans, W.C., White, L.D., Tuttle, M.L., Kling, G.W., Tanyileke, G. and Michel, R.L., 1994, Six years of change at Lake Nyos, Cameroon, yield clues to the past and cautions for the future: Geochemistry, v. 28, p. 139-162.
Kling, G.W., Tuttle, M.L., and Evans, W.C., 1989, The evolution of thermal structure and water chemistry in Lake Nyos: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 39, p. 151-165.
Lockwood, J.P., and Rubin, M., 1989, Origin and age of the Lake Nyos maar, Cameroon: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 39, p. 117-124.
Lockwood, J.P., Costa, J.E., Tuttle, M.L., Nni, J., and Tebor, S.G., 1988, The potential for catastrophic dam failure at Lake Nyos maar, Cameroon: Bulletin of Volcanology, v. 50, p. 340-349.
Sigvaldason, G.E., 1989, International conference on Lake Nyos disaster, Yaounde, Cameroon 16-20 March, 1987: Conclusions and recommendations: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 39, p. 97-109.
Simkin, T., and Siebert, L., 1994, Volcanoes of the World: Geoscience Press, Tucson, Arizona, 349 p.
Tazieff, H., 1989, Mechanisms of the Nyos carbon dioxide disaster and of so-called phreatic steam eruptions: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 39, p. 109-116.