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Village Where The Ground Breathes Fire

Village Where The Ground Breathes Fire

Locals in this village need to be careful when working in the fields because even a single spark from a metal farming implement striking a stone can cause the air to literally burst into flames, as this picture shows.

In fact the phenomenon is so common now that Nanjiawan village in south-west China is known by its nickname as 'Invisible Fire Village'.

The frequent fireballs are caused by methane gas seeping out of the ground and being lit either by unwary people using cigarettes with unfortunate consequences, or sparks from electrical equipment in the few houses that have electricity generators in the village.

Superstitious locals initially called in priests believing that they had been cursed by evil spirits. After that failed to drive away the methane gas explosions, some of the more enterprising villagers dug tunnels under their homes and using the gas to create basic underfloor heating systems.

The gas was discovered less than a year ago when an 83-year-old woman called Su Geng reported to authorities a strange smell emanating from the cellar where she stores sweet potatoes.

She said: "They told me after doing test that was methane leaking out of the ground, and they set fire to the air to prove it to me."

Methane coming out of the ground and burning occurs in many places over the world, and on one hillside on Turkey's Mediterranean coast fires have been burning for thousands of years.

But the locals in China are afraid that the 'Invisible Fire' will one day burn out of control and kill them in their beds.

A police spokesman said: "It doesn't matter how often they are told that it is an explainable natural phenomenon, there are many who view it as a sinister thing and insist that it evil spirits and other hocus pocus is at play.

"In fact the most logical explanation is staring them in the face every day. There is a natural gas mine not far from the village. It's likely that the gas leaks and goes underground to the village, causing the fires there. It is not witchcraft or sorcery but simple natural science."

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