Turkmenistan’s president has ordered the extinguishing of the country’s “Gateway to Hell”, a fire that has been burning for decades in a huge desert gas crater.
Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov wants it put out for environmental and health reasons, as well as part of efforts to increase gas exports.
But Canadian explorer George Kourounis examined the crater’s depths in 2013 and discovered that no-one actually knows how it started.
According to local Turkmen geologists, the huge crater formed in the 1960s but was only lit in the 1980s.
Many believe it formed when a Soviet drilling operation went wrong in 1971.
In 2018, the president officially renamed it the Shining of Karakum.
“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”.
There have been numerous attempts to end the fire, including in 2010 when Mr Berdymukhamedov also ordered experts to find a way to put out the flames.
The crater is one of Turkmenistan’s most popular tourist attractions.