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US Dispatching Assessment Teams, Aid to Cameroon

August 25, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States is dispatching two teams to Cameroon to determine the cause of the weekend toxic gas disaster there and the cause for the reported 1,200 or more dead, it was announced Monday.

Aside from an immediate donation of $25,000 for relief efforts, no other material assistance is planned until a specific request is received from the Cameroon government, said M. Peter McPherson, administrator of the Agency for International Development.

Dr. Edward Koenigsberg is heading the team that is attempting to determine the cause of death. It also will recommend treatment for 200 persons who have been hospitalized.

The second team is being led by Joseph Devine of Brown University, a specialist in fresh water geologic chemistry. Both groups are expected to arrive in the West African nation by Tuesday.

McPherson told reporters the incident belongs in the ″Ripley’s Believe It Or Not″ category because of the highly unusual combination of events that produced the disaster.

He speculated that a small earthquake in the area produced a landslide on one side of Lake Nios, 200 miles northwest of the capital, Yaounde.

The ground fell into the bottom of the lake, creating a stirring of the sediment, which, in turn, produced the gas that spurted up from the bottom of the lake - ″almost like releasing a cork from a champagne bottle,″ he said.

McPherson said his analysis was based on a similar incident that occurred in Cameroon in August 1984 in which several dozen people were killed.

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