Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, president of Turkmenistan, wants to close the “Gates Of Hell.” While we might expect an authoritarian leader to make this kind of proclamation in a more figurative sense, Berdymukhamedov is being pretty literal in that he’d like his country to extinguish a giant gas crater that’s been belching flames into the Karakum Desert since at least 1971.
According to the Washington Post, Berdymukhamedov spoke about his desire to plug up the infernal crater on state television last Saturday, citing “environmental and economic concerns and [asking] his government to find ways to put the fire out.”
The Darvaza gas crater, which is also known as the “Gates Of Hell” or “Door To Hell,” spans roughly 200 feet wide and is “at least 70 feet deep.” Its origin is debated, with some experts believing the gas crater was lit following an accident that occurred in 1971 during a Soviet drilling project and others saying it “formed in the 1960s and [was] lit two decades later.”
Berdymukhamedov said the Gate Of Hell “negatively affects both the environment and the health of the people living nearby” while also causing Turkmenistan to “[lose] valuable natural resources for which we could get significant profits.”
The president, presumably tortured by having the cover art for a metal album burning constantly within his country’s borders, first ordered the Gates Of Hell shut in 2010, but wasn’t able to defy Satan back then either. In 2018, in what can only be read as a temporary sign of defeat, he renamed the crater “Shining Of The Karakum.” (Not that anyone stopped referring to the crater as the Gates Of Hell.) Now, even with this prettier name, he’s ready to get back out there, roll up his sleeves, and enlist some experts to really show the armies of hell what’s what.
Whatever the result, we figure it can’t hurt to try having a fleet of dump trucks pull up to the crater’s edge and pour in several thousand tons of sand. If the crater is indeed the Gates Of Hell, putting a cork in it seems as good a way to try to improve the world as anything else that’s been proposed lately.
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