UN sends experts to assess threat of dam collapsing into lake in Cameroon

27 September 2005

The United Nations has sent two experts to Cameroon to help assess a lake's natural dam which is threatening to collapse, with the potentially disastrous consequences of not only flooding the homes of tens of thousands of people but also of releasing its second cloud of deadly gas in nearly two decades.

A similar release of toxic, odourless carbon dioxide from Lake Nyos, in the Northwest Province of the West African country, killed more than 1,700 people in 1986, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.

In response to a request for assistance from the Government of Cameroon, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and OCHA joined in sending in two experts from the Netherlands to collaborate with experts from the national Ministry of Territorial Administration in assessing the situation at the crater lake.

A preliminary report is expected soon, OCHA said.

"The potential for damage if the dam were to collapse is severe," it said. "Not only would tens of thousands of individuals living downstream in Cameroon and Nigeria be affected by the ensuing flooding, but there is also a possibility that toxic carbon dioxide gas stored in the deeper layers of the lake could be released."


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