The Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan has long been host to what has been dubbed the “Gateway to Hell” – a massive hole in the ground that has been smoldering for about five decades.
However, the country’s government is now moving to finally extinguish the blazing natural Darvaza gas crater which lies in the center of the huge Karakum desert.
This isn’t the first time that President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has spoken of extinguishing the so-called portal to the underworld. In 2010, the strongman leader also ordered that experts investigate how best to put out the flames, which have been raging since a mishandled Soviet drilling expedition in 1971.
To prevent a disaster resulting from the spread of dangerous fumes, Soviet authorities decided it would be best to burn off the gas by setting it alight.
As a result, the 229-foot (70 meter) wide and 65-foot (20-meter) deep crater has been ablaze ever since, drawing tourists to the former Soviet country.
In 2018, the government officially renamed the pit the “Shining of Karakum.”
This week, Berdymukhamedov decried how the gas crater “negatively affects both the environment and the health of the people living nearby,” reports AFP.
“We are losing valuable natural resources for which we could get significant profits and use them for improving the well-being of our people,” he added in the televised statement, noting that officials must “find a solution to extinguish the fire.”
Turkmenistan is known to possess the fourth-largest known reserve of natural gas in the world, reports VICE, and its economy is dependent on the export of the raw resource.
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