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Turkmenistan’s president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, said Saturday he wants to extinguish the flaming Darvaza natural gas crater. The site is a popular tourist attraction in the Central Asian country, and is known as the “Gates of Hell.” On Saturday, Berdymukhamedov appeared on state television ordering government officials to put out the fire, citing ecological damage and economic concerns. He said the natural gas fire “negatively affects both the environment and the health of the people living nearby.”  In his remarks, he said, “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 “Gates of Hell” is located roughly 260 kilometers (160 miles) north of the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat. The site is 60 meters (190 feet) wide and 20 meters (70 feet) at its depth. Turkmenportal, a Turkmen news site, said the “Gates of Hell” first formed in 1971 when Soviet geologists hit a natural gas cavern in the large Karakum Desert, causing it to collapse by accident. Soviet geologists started the fire to prevent the spread of natural gas, mistakenly believing it would be extinguished in a short period of time.

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