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Kalachi - Kazakhstani village where sleep is nightmare

Tengrinews file photo Tengrinews file photo

M. Night Shyamalan might want to hear this story.

A mysterious sleeping illness, which puts unsuspecting victims to sleep anywhere and anytime, has struck a small village in Kazakhstan’s north. For two years, people in the village of Kalachi have been experiencing these sudden urges to fall asleep and some people remained sleeping for as long as two days.

All those people cite the same symptoms: weakness, drowsiness, dizziness, incoordination and partial memory loss. Some victims also claim they had hallucinations. Nice plot for a suspense thriller. But in this case, all of it is true.

One of the people who suffered from the bizarre illness is a 17-year old girl Dasha, KTK reports. Her relatives say she fell asleep six times and each time the symptoms became worse. The girl was eventually sent to a psychiatric clinic. But her relatives claim it is the disease that affected her brain not some psychic problems.

The latest wave of strange occurrences started on December 20, 2014 with 40 people being taken into the world of Morpheus out of free will. They were hospitalized with a diagnosis “encephalopathy of unknown etiology.”

Numerous commissions sent to the village and thousands of tests conducted in Kalachi have not led to the clues into the causes of the disease.

Kalachi village has a population of 680 people. It is located close to uranium ore mines, launched in 1960s and sealed off in 1991-1992 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nearest of the mines is 500 meters away from the village.

Some people suggested it might be the radiation in the area that’s causing the sickness. However, the authorities and specialists have not detected excessive radiation levels in the area. So they ruled out the version connecting the radiation from the mines with the mysterious illness.

At one point the people in the village asked to declare a state of emergency but gave up on the idea later. Now they are demanding resettlement.

The authorities first said they won’t demolish the village. This was at the end of September last year. Press service of the mayor’s office of Akmola Oblast said that the decision to demolish the village was not on the agenda because neither causes nor etiology of the illness had been determined. They said measures would be taken if the results of the tests show that living in the village was dangerous to its inhabitants.

In the middle of November, the First Deputy Akim (mayor) of Akmola Oblast Kadyrkhan Otarov informed that a proposal to allocate funds for the resettlement of villagers was presented to the government and the sum of 2 billion tenge ($11 million) was approved, Interfax Kazakhstan reported. He said villagers would be resettled into large farms of Yesil and other districts, where they would be provided with housing and jobs, albeit noting that the causes of the "sleeping sickness" were still unknown.

It seemed as if everything was finally getting better. But at the end of 2014, news came out that were nothing short of absurdity.

There is another village, just 600 meters away from Kalachi, called Krasnogorsky that is home to 130 people. Here, residents also started falling asleep and were also promised new housing. Dare we ask where? In Kalachi! In the very epicenter of the "sleeping sickness." Construction of six apartment houses there is already in full swing.

The reaction of Krasnogorsky villagers was not long in coming. "Only in a madhouse can someone come up with such a decision: people fall asleep, it is a hopeless village but Krasnogorsky villagers should go and die there," Victor Lukyanenko, one of the enraged villagers, is quoted by KTK TV channel.

Meanwhile, the number of people who fall asleep in Kalachi continues to grow. With each passing day, the depressive moods in the village are becoming darker. Some of the residents went to other districts at the invitation of the administration to see with their own eyes the accommodation and work they are being offered. Their return is awaited with great curiosity by other villagers. A survey in the village revealed that 58% of the villagers wish to be relocated to another place.

But another 42% do not share the urge to move. Everyone in the village knows that the local authorities are offering relocation at will. But many believe such a proposition is too vague. They wonder what would happen to their property. They also think that moving into rental housing, albeit with an option to buy, is unwise. They ask for a monetary compensation because the authorities have not made it clear whether housing in other places would become their property.

The problems of Kalachi village and Berezovka village (a village in Kazakhstan's west where people faint collectively) are being monitored at the highest level of the government, said the Vice-Premier of Kazakhstan Berdibek Saparbayev, Akorda press service wrote.

“Preventive examinations of Kalachi and Berezovka villagers have been fully completed. All residents have been provided with individual socio-medical passports. In order to ensure continuous monitoring of the environmental situation in the village of Kalachi and nearby rural settlements, environmental roadblocks have been put in place," Akorda said.

Saparbayev added that it was necessary to send the results of medical tests to leading foreign scientific and research institutes for an independent evaluation.

Meanwhile, emotions are running so high in Kalachi and Krasnogorsky that even doctors are starting to lose it. One doctor could not hold back her emotions and started to cry.

In Krasnogorskaya medical clinic they said that “everyone here is suffering,” even those who were not directly hit by the illness. In particular, problems with memory are omnipresent.

The symptoms among patients are becoming worse and recovering is becoming harder. People suffer from hallucinations, visual and auditory. They cry, howl, and even tear their hair out.

The doctors don’t know how to treat them.

"We are not told what this is. We just swallow tons of absorbent carbon and drink vitamins. But what is it? We are not explained what causes it. Why? We need antidotes here. (…) They do not listen to us, that we really need to declare a state of emergency here. The situation here is dreadful,” the doctor said.

One of the residents of Kalachi village Gulbanu Bazarbayeva said that she would move at any convenient moment. She had sent her child away but had to stay in the village for a while longer herself.

Every time her husband falls asleep she asks: “Are you sleeping?” And she is happy when he replies: “Yes, yes, everything is alright, I am sleeping.”

For them it is a nightmare in one’s waking hours.

Are you sleeping? Do you hear me? Why are you not waking up? Do you hear me? Wake up!

By Dinara Urazova

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