Turkmenistan president orders the extinguishing of mysterious ‘Gateway to Hell’, a huge fire that has been burning in the country’s desert since 1971 (photos)

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Turkmenistan’s president has ordered the extinguishing of the country’s “Gateway to Hell”, a huge mysterious fire that has been burning for decades in a huge desert gas crater.

The fire known as Darvaza crater’s creation in the Karakum Desert is mysterious and many believe it formed when a Soviet drilling operation went wrong in 1971.

But after the crater’s depths were examined by Canadian explorer George Kourounis in 2013 he discovered that no-one actually knows how the fire started.

According to Turkmen geologists, the huge crater formed in the 1960s but was only lit in the 1980s. The fire has been nicknamed the ‘gateway of hell’ and is a popular tourist attraction in Turkmenistan.

The crater is 70 metres (229 feet) wide and 20 metres (65 feet) deep.

The country’s president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov citing environmental and economic concerns, appeared on state television Saturday, January 8, telling officials to put out the flames at the Darvaza gas crater in the middle of the vast Karakum desert.

There have been plenty attempts to end the fire, including in 2010 when Berdymukhamedov also ordered experts to find a way to put out the flames. But the fire has never stopped burning in decades.

In 2018, the president officially renamed it the Shining of Karakum but now wants it extinguished for good.

“We are losing valuable natural resources for which we could get significant profits and use them for improving the well-being of our people,” the president said in televised remarks.

He instructed officials to “find a solution to extinguish the fire”.

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