Evolving earth Children

Flaming fire

Isn’t it a cause for wonder when orange flames come out of the earth non stop? Situated near Derweze village in the middle of the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan, the Door to Hell is a massive isolated gas crater, which has been burning for 46 years.

Burning cavity

Door to Hell is the result of a drilling disaster. It began in the late 1960s when study teams sent by the erstwhile Soviet Union travelled the continent in search of oil and gas. In 1971, one of the teams identified a rich deposit of natural gas in Derweze village. After they mobilised people, a camp was arranged along with a drilling device.

The Soviet geologists did not realise that what they started was going to create havoc for years to come. The drilling began and suddenly the surface below the drilling rig crumpled. Soon, the reserve turned into a deadly sinkhole as loads of methane gas was released into the air. The geologists decided to take an action considering methane was a major environmental hazard.

To remove the methane the geologists decided to set the poisonous crater on fire. They predicted that the fire would burn off the gas in a few days, instead the fire continues to burn till date. Following this incident, the people of the village named this site — “Door to Hell.”

The cavity has a width of 230 feet and a depth of 66 feet. It emits a foul smell. The burning crater looks unimpressive to the few tourists that it attracts. But at dusk, the site turns beautiful, with orange flames illuminating the place.

Know more

To stand at the edge of the crater one has to cover his/her face. In 2013, George Kourounis, a Canadian explorer explored the place to gather soil samples from the cavern to see if life is possible in this kind of an environment. He was the first to explore the region. In addition, Kourounis and his team came across some bacteria living in the extreme temperature inside the pit, which was not present in the area outside the pit. The 350 inhabitants of Derweze village deal with the unfriendly conditions as best they can. Although a directive was issued in 2010 to close the Door to Hell, no action has been taken till date. The crater continues to burn.

Unnatural disaster

Door to Hell can be compared to a fire that has been burning in Centralia, Pennsylvania, U.S. The fire department in 1962 attempted to clean up the waste material in the town by setting the substances on fire. The resultant fire kindled a coal seam (mine fire) stretching across the town’s pits. To add to the disaster, unsafe caverns were formed as well as toxic gases were let out.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 9:20:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/flaming-fire/article18178409.ece

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