Kazakhstan is a Top Uranium Producer
Uranium pellets are seen on a production line in Kazakhstan's eastern town of Ust-Kamenogorsk. REUTERS

Kalachi, a small village in the Akmolinsk region, has been beset with an inexplicable deep-sleep syndrome since March 2013. The Health Ministry and other scientists in Kazakhstan have been probing into the probable causes of this strange condition that plagued the area for almost two years. Authorities have earlier clarified that the 'sleep illness', which has affected at least 100 inhabitants and visitors, is not caused by any viral or bacterial infection or radiation either. Local officials from nine districts have met with the affected families and have offered resettlement to neighbouring towns. Interfax reports that 58 percent of the 582 villagers have decided to relocate elsewhere starting this year, 2015.

People hit with this syndrome have complained of overpowering sleepiness which lasts from two to six days. Some experienced unexplained fatigue, temporary loss of memory and hallucinations. In May 2014, Kabdrashit Almagambetov, a physician from the main district Esil, told The Siberian Times that all the affected residents had normal tests results. Currently, there are 123 reported cases and most of which have experienced the same symptoms more than once. Despite numerous epidemiological investigations conducted, experts are still unable to figure out the exact cause of this condition, which is now called "a brain disorder of unknown etiology."

Earlier cases of the sleep epidemic occurred in late spring but waned in autumn. New cases, however, began in late December. At first, there were assumptions about the radioactive effects of an old uranium mine near the village which used to operate sometime during the Soviet Union era. However, radiation levels in the area are normal. Still, tests are continuously conducted to investigate the mine's possible link to the high concentration of vapours detected in some of the residents' basements. These strong fumes were noticed in homes that had poor ventilation. The Health Ministry has not made any final conclusions on these findings.

The deserted town of Krasnogorsk, which lies near the village, used to be populated with mining communities. One of the few remaining inhabitants said that workers laboured in the mines for years but have never felt this sleeping illness. The facilities have not been operational for more than two decades. Environmentalists in other countries have been exposing the threats brought about by old uranium mines.