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Unexplained Underground Fires Causing Panic in India

Indian news outlet The Hindu reports that unexplained underground fires have been burning in at least two different locations in southern India. The Indian government has dispatched engineers from the Forest Department to try and determine the cause of the blazes, but so far their origin remains a mystery.

Some of the fires are smoldering near national forests.

Some of the fires are smoldering near national forests.

Last month, one of the fires claimed the life of a fourteen-year-old boy who slipped and fell onto the burning ground as he was trying to find a private spot to relieve himself. That fire is burning on the outskirts of the town of Mysuru in the southern state of Karnataka. The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) and the departments of Mines and Geology, Fire, and Factories and Boilers are looking into whether industrial run-off or dumping could have led to the fires. KSPCB Deputy Commissioner D. Randeep told The Hindu that they are considering all possibilities for the cause of the fire, including geological ones:

We are also not ruling out any geological phenomenon at this stage. There seems to be no large-scale dumping of waste either since the area is difficult to access. The probe will look into all these aspects.

Over a hundred kilometers (60 miles) to the south, smoke has been seen rising from the ground near the city of Oody (or Udhagamandalam). According to The Hindu, smoke from the smoldering subterranean fires has caused panic among local residents. Thousands of liters of water have been dumped on the area in an attempt to extinguish the fires, but smoke continues to rise. Forest rangers believe the heat is being generated by the decomposition of organic materials underground, although unknown industrial pollution isn’t ruled out. Similar blazes have been reported by The Times of India at known dumping grounds over the last few months, but the location of these recent mysterious underground infernos seems to be unlike those garbage fires.

Underground fires at dumping grounds are common.

Underground fires at dumping grounds are common.

Whatever the cause of these fires is, they sound somewhat similar to the so-called β€œDoor to Hell” in Turkmenistan, a flaming crater of boiling mud that has been burning for over four decades. Just last year, a similar hellish eerie-looking crater opened in western China over a coal bed which had ignited after miners improperly sealed a mine. With so much powerful seismic activity happening in the region over the last few years, it makes you wonder if this is a sign that the underworld is getting restless. Nah, it’s probably just burning garbage. It usually is.