Turkmenistan plans to close its giant natural gas crater

ASHGABAT, TURKMENISTAN (AFP) – Turkmenistan strongman has ordered experts to find a way to finally extinguish a massive five-decade-old blaze in a gigantic natural gas crater in the Central Asian country known as the “Gate of Hell”.

Citing environmental and economic concerns, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov appeared on state television yesterday to ask authorities to put out the flames at the Darvaza gas crater in the middle of the vast Karakum desert.

In 2010, Berdymukhamedov also ordered experts to find a way to extinguish the flames that have been burning since a Soviet drilling operation went wrong in 1971.

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said the man-made crater “negatively affects both the environment and the health of people living nearby”.

“We are losing precious natural resources for which we could obtain significant benefits and use them to improve the well-being of our people,” he said in a televised address.

Berdymukhamedov called on the authorities to “find a solution to extinguish the fire”.

The crater was created in 1971 in a Soviet drilling accident that struck a gas cavern, causing the drilling platform to fall and the land below to collapse.

To prevent the dangerous fumes from spreading, the Soviets decided to burn the gas by setting it on fire.

The pit has been on fire since and previous attempts to extinguish it have been unsuccessful.

The resulting crater – 70 meters wide and 20 meters deep – is a popular tourist attraction in the former Soviet country.

In 2018, the president officially renamed it “Shining of Karakum”.

People visiting the huge burning gas crater in the heart of the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan. FILE PHOTO: AFP

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