Imagine you’re minding your own business, going about your daily chores, thinking about what you’ll have for dinner when all of a sudden your brain switches off, and you slip into a coma without ever knowing what hit you. You wake up 5 days later in the hospital, surrounded by doctors who don’t have an explanation for you other than the mere fact that you… fell asleep. If you think this is a horror movie scenario, think again! This actually happened in Kalachi, a tiny, quiet village in Kazakhstan that lies 300 miles west from Astana. Kazachenko, the man whose case we just described experienced the mysterious sickness in Kazkhstan that made people fall asleep.
He went through a sleeping sickness that left many wondering at what it was happening. Kazachenko was driving his motorcycle accompanied by his wife when he blacked out all of a sudden. This wasn’t the first time he was experiencing the queer slumber. The two episodes left him with high blood pressure, headaches and disorientation.
It wasn’t an isolated case either. The ghost illness started claiming victims on the streets, with residents falling asleep unaware on the streets or even worse, while driving. This puzzling mystery left people wondering what had happened with them. One second they were walking down the street and the next they woke up in a hospital bed.
The sickness spread to another small village, Krasnogorsk. The number of victims in both places summed up to over 150 people. The longest period of time a man stayed in a coma stretched to 6 days. Besides causing residents to fall asleep, this nameless sickness also caused other temporary symptoms like hallucinations.
Everybody was in the dark in the early days of the “epidemic”, with some pointing fingers at counterfeit vodka and others simply dismissing it as mass hysteria. However, after medical researchers concluded their tests they managed to get to the root of the problem: carbon monoxide.
This was coming from the nearby uranium mines which had been closed a good many years ago. The carbon monoxide that had been trapped inside the Soviet mines escaped, leading to the symptoms the residences of Kalachi and Krasnogorsk were experiencing. Kazakhstan’s Deputy Prime Minister, Berdybek Saparbayev, confirmed the cause of the illness.
The combination of carbon monoxide and some other hydrocarbon gasses worked together to reduce the levels of oxygen in the affected areas. This left the local authorities wondering what can be done for the villagers of Kalachi and Krasnogorsk. One option would be to move the residents to another place in order to prevent further exposing them to the dangerous carbon monoxide and other gasses.
The process was started and over 100 villagers were relocated across Akmola, in Northern Kazakhstan. However, around 425 other people are still residing in the poisoned village, awaiting the help of local administrations for relocating them. No one was forced to accept the move, which means some villagers are more hesitant than others to leave the place where they were born and where they lived for decades.
Kazachenko, the motorcycle driver, is one of these people. He refuses to move from the village where he has lived for more than 40 years and seems undaunted in the face of the strange symptoms caused by the uranium mines. He has the support of his wife who, in her turn, spent 60 years in her village.
Some of the remaining villagers seem inclined to prefer receiving a compensation, while the rest plainly refuse to abandon Kalachi and Krasnogorsk. With the authorities trying to accommodate everybody, the schools and hospitals were promised to remain fully functional until every single villager agrees to relocate.