Killer Lakes

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When Mount Nyiragongo erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo in January 2002 it seemed like a disaster. Molten lava plunged down the hillside and poured into nearby Lake Kivu. Many died, and much of the city of Goma was destroyed. In fact, the local people were lucky. Had the eruption spread to one of the many volcanic faults under Lake Kivu, it could have unleashed one of the most terrifying of all natural phenomena - lake overturn.

The phenomenon of lake overturn first struck in 1984 at Lake Monoun, in Cameroon. 37 people mysteriously died, suddenly and silently. A bizarre array of theories sprang up - secret testing of chemical weapons, a massacre by unknown terrorists; none really made sense. The scientists who looked into the disaster believed it had to be something to do with the lake itself, but they could not be absolutely sure.

In 1986, before research into the Monoun disaster was made public, it all happened again. The tragedy of Lake Nyos, also in Cameroon, made headlines around the world when almost 1,800 people sleeping in houses around the lake suffocated in their sleep. The team of scientists that went to investigate concluded that carbon dioxide, trapped at the bottom of the lake, had suddenly risen to the surface, killing everything within 25km. They called their theory lake overturn. (www.youtube.com)