According to recent broadcast statements, Turkmenistan’s president wants to finally put a stop to the “Gates of Hell” that have been burning in Turkmenistan’s Karakum desert for the past fifty years.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan pleaded with officials to “find a solution to extinguish the fire” in an appearance on Turkmenistan’s leading television station on Jan. 8.

Berdymukhamedov claimed that “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 meant by “Hell’s Gates”?

The Darvaza gas crater, a term considerably less ominous, is another name for the Gates of Hell, a gaping chasm in the desert about 230 feet (70 meters) wide and 65 feet (20 meters) deep.

According to AFP, a Soviet drilling effort to produce gas began excavating the hole in 1971. (Turkmenistan is a former Soviet country.)

The earth disintegrated beneath the drill rig, and the rig fell into a natural gas cavern. Rather than wait for weeks for the gas to burn out, scientists opted to light the crater while it was still leaking dangerous amounts of methane gas into the atmosphere.

The Turkmenistan Gates of Hell became a popular tourist attraction years after being first built. This year, President Berdymukhamedov published a video of himself driving a rally vehicle over the desert near the flaming crater, performing doughnuts.

The blazing picture op in the desert has turned Berdymukhamedov’s popularity off, but his economic problems may be a hint. It is estimated that Turkmenistan has the fourth-largest natural gas resource globally, and its economy is heavily dependent on the export of natural gas.

In 2010, President Berdymukhamedov instructed scientists to stop the Hell Gates, but they failed. Better luck this time.

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