Turkmenistan’s so-called “hell gates” may soon be extinguished, after the country’s leader said they were causing ecological damage.
However, rather than being a supernatural portal to the underworld, the name refers to the site of a spectacular burning crater in the ground, about 160 miles north of the capital Ashgabat.
The hole, which is 20 meters (70 feet) deep and 60 meters (190 feet) wide, was believed to have formed after a gas borehole collapsed in 1971, according to the local Turkmenportal news site.
It was ignited for the purpose of burning natural gas, with the hope that it would only take a few weeks.
It is not known exactly when the crater started to burn, with some sources claiming it may have been set on fire a decade later.
For decades, it has been a big draw to the handful of tourists entering this notoriously secretive state.
But now, after burning for about 50 years, the country’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has called for an end to it.
“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 on state television.
He added that his team should “find a solution to put out the fire.”
Mr Berdymukhamedov didn’t always have such contempt for the crater – he was filmed in 2019 driving around it at full speed in an all-terrain truck.
In 2010, he officially named it Shining of Karakum.