Gate to Hell in Karakum desert
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Derweze (Turkmen language: The Gate, also known as Darvaza) is a Turkmenistan village of about 350 inhabitants, located in the middle of the Kara-Kum desert, about 260 km north from Ashgabat. Darvaza inhabitants are mostly Turkmen of the Teke tribe, preserving a half-nomadic lifestyle.
The Derweze area is rich in natural gas. While drilling in 1971 geologists accidentally found an underground cavern filled with natural gas. The ground beneath the drilling rig collapsed, leaving a large hole with a diameter of about 50-100 meters. To avoid poisonous gas discharge, it was decided to burn the gas. Geologists had hoped the fire would go out in a few days but it has been burning ever since. Locals have named the cavern The Door to Hell. Next to capturing the gas, flaring is safer and friendlier to the environment than releasing the methane into the atmosphere as methane is a relatively potent greenhouse gas with a high global warming potential of 72 (averaged over 20 years) or 25 (averaged over 100 years). Turkmenistan plans to increase its production of natural gas. In April 2010, the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow visited the site and ordered that the hole should be closed, or other measures be taken to limit its influence on the development of other natural gas fields in the area.
Not far from the burning crater are two other craters of similar origin. These craters are not burning as the gas pressure is much weaker. At the bottom of one of these craters is light grey mud while the last crater contains a turquoise lake. This lake prevents further attempts at drilling. Not far from the burning crater are several dormant wells (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derweze).