Country's President Wants to Close the 'Gates of Hell'

Crater in Turkmenistan has been burning since 1971
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2022 4:57 PM CST
Country's President Wants to Close the 'Gates of Hell'
The crater fire named "Gates of Hell" is seen near Darvaza, Turkmenistan, Sunday, July 12, 2020.   (AP Photo/Alexander Vershinin)

(Newser) – The president of Turkmenistan says he wants to close one of the country's best-known tourist attractions—the Darvaza gas crater, better known as the Gates of Hell. The fiery pit, believed to have been burning since Soviet geologists tried to burn off methane gas more than 50 years ago, lies in the Karakum desert around 160 miles north of the Central Asian country's capital, Ashgabat. In an appearance on state TV, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov told officials it was time to extinguish the crater, saying it "negatively affects both the environment and the health of the people living nearby," AFP reports.

"We are losing valuable natural resources for which we could get significant profits and use them for improving the well-being of our people," said the president, who was filmed doing doughnuts in a rally car around the crater in 2019, apparently in an effort to dispels rumors he had died. CNN reports that according to state media, Berdymukhamedov has asked senior lawmakers to speak to scientists and find a way to put out the fire. They were instructed to call in foreign experts if necessary. This isn't the first time the leader has tried to deal with the crater, which is 229 feet wide and 65 feet deep, per LiveScience. He ordered scientists to close the Gates of Hell in 2010, though it's not clear if they made any attempt to do so. (Read more Turkmenistan stories.)

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