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Turkmenistan wants to close 'Gates of Hell'

January 8, 2022

Turkmenistan's president has said he wants to close a popular tourist attraction known as the "Gates of Hell." The site is a spectacular natural gas crater that has burned for decades.

The crater fire named "Gates of Hell"  near Darvaza, Turkmenistan.
Decades after a Soviet drilling accident in 1971, the flaming natural gas crater is still burningImage: Alexander Vershinin/AP/picture alliance

Turkmenistan's president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, said Saturday he wants to extinguish the flaming Darvaza natural gas crater.

The site is a popular tourist attraction in the Central Asian country, and is known as the "Gates of Hell."

On Saturday, Berdymukhamedov appeared on state television ordering government officials to put out the fire, citing ecological damage and economic concerns.

He said the natural gas fire "negatively affects both the environment and the health of the people living nearby."

In his remarks, he said, "We are losing valuable natural resources for which we could get significant profits and use them for improving the well-being of our people."

What is the 'Gates of Hell'?

The "Gates of Hell" is located roughly 260 kilometers (160 miles) north of the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat. The site is 60 meters (190 feet) wide and 20 meters (70 feet) at its depth.

Turkmenportal, a Turkmen news site, said the "Gates of Hell" first formed in 1971 when Soviet geologists hit a natural gas cavern in the large Karakum Desert, causing it to collapse by accident.

Soviet geologists started the fire to prevent the spread of natural gas, mistakenly believing it would be extinguished in a short period of time.

Decades later, the "Gates of Hell" is still burning, like the inferno it is named for.

In 2018, the president ordered it renamed "Shining of Karakum."

Has anyone tried to extinguish the 'Gates of Hell' before?

Berdymukhamedov previously ordered the flames be extinguished in 2010.

Earlier attempts to extinguish the "Gates of Hell" have not been successful.

In 2019, Berdymukhamedov used an off-road truck to speed around the "Gates of Hell" for state television.

Pressure on gas prices not easing

ar/wd (AFP, AP)