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Turkmenistan May Finally Close Its Gateway to Hell

For nearly 50 years, a portal to hell has been left wide open in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan, which explains a lot. Now, Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is telling the nation’s scientists that it’s time to shut it down.

Sounds like a dispatch from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it’s more or less the real situation on the ground. At some point in the 1970s, a 230-foot wide sinkhole opened up about 150 miles outside of the Turkmenistan capital, Ashgabat. It’s been on fire ever since, giving rise to the sinkhole’s nickname: “Gates of Hell.”

Nobody’s entirely sure why, it’s on fire. One rumor goes that the Soviet Army stumbled across the sinkhole while looking for gas deposits in 1971 and tried to burn away the noxious fumes, but they just kept burning. It’s quite a sight, visible for miles in any direction. But Berdimuhamedov is ready to close this portal to hell, and we can all agree that’s in everyone’s best interests. Not just because of the sinister horrors that lurk within, but also because the fumes may pose a health hazard for nearby communities.

Turning it off may be easier said than done. Scientists have tried before, in 2010, to no avail. Since then, Turkmenistan authorities have leaned into the problem, turning the Gates of Hell into a popular tourist trap. But now, Berdimuhamdedov is ready to try shutting it down again.

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“We are creating – and will continue to create – all necessary conditions for the development of the colossal hydrocarbon resources of our independent Motherland, in the interests of our people,” he said.

Well, modern science has so far been stymied by climate change and a global pandemic, but closing a gateway to hell isn’t nothing. And if we can pull that off, who knows what else we may be capable of?

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