The President of Turkmenistan, Gourbangouly Berdymoukhamedov, gave the order to extinguish the flames which have been burning for half a century in a giant gas crater nicknamed the “gates of Hell”.
Located in the Karakum Desert, the Darzava gas crater has been in continuous combustion since 1971 and has become the main tourist attraction in Turkmenistan, the former Soviet Republic and one of the most closed countries in the world.
A “negative effect on the environment”
Gourbangouly Berdymoukhamedov estimated that the flames burning in this 70-meter-wide well had “a negative effect on the environment and the health of neighboring populations”.
“We are wasting valuable natural resources for which we could receive gains that would be used to increase the well-being of our people,” he added, according to statements broadcast by state television.
He therefore ordered the authorities to “find a solution to extinguish the fire” which is burning in Darvaza.
The origins of the crater
The origin of these “Gates to Hell” dates back to 1971, when Soviet scientists accidentally pierced an underground pocket of gas while drilling for deposits.
The ground sagged, creating the crater. Fearing that it would emit poison gas, the authorities decided to set it on fire, believing that it would dry up the deposit. But half a century later, it is still burning.