The president of Turkmenistan has ordered the closure of the “Gate to Hell”, a crater that has been burning for decades.
In the desert of Turkmenistan, about 250 kilometers north of the capital, there is an unusual tourist attraction. “Gateway to Hell”, or “The Gate to Hell”, has been burning uninterruptedly for fifty years.
Now the country’s president, Gurbanguly Merdymukhamedov, has ordered that the Darvaza crater be wiped out, several foreign media write.
Loses natural resources
The president justifies the decision with the fact that the country loses valuable natural resources because the crater continues to burn. At the same time, the man-made crater has a negative impact on the environment, and on the health of nearby residents.
“We are losing valuable natural resources for which we can make a significant profit, and which we can use to improve conditions for our people,” he said.
The country’s leader is now asking the authorities to find a way to extinguish the fire in the crater.
It is believed that the 70 meter wide and 20 meter deep crater arose in 1971 during a drilling accident, when the drill hit a gas cave. This led to the drilling rig falling down and the ground collapsing beneath it.
It was soon discovered that the large amounts of methane gas released killed nearby wildlife in the former Soviet Union. Methane itself is not toxic, but makes it difficult to breathe as it replaces the oxygen in the air, according to Forbes.
To prevent the dangerous gases from spreading, Soviet authorities decided to set fire to the gas. It was assumed that the crater would burn up within a few weeks, but there was no knowledge of how much gas was underground.
BBC writes, however, that Canadian George Kouronous examined the crater in 2013, and that he discovered that no one really knows how the fire started. According to local geologists in Turkmenistan, the crater originated in the 1960s and was not set on fire until 20 years later.
Regardless of how the fire originated, all attempts to extinguish it have been in vain.
This is not the first time that the current president has given the order to put out the fire – already in 2010 he asked experts to find a solution. Three years later, he also declared the area where the crater was located a nature reserve.
Darvaza Crater is the Asian country’s biggest tourist attraction, attracting thousands of visitors to the desert every year.
In 2018, Merdymukhamedov renamed the burning crater to “The Shining of Karakum”, after the desert in which it is located, writes The Guardian.