Written by By Tia Ghose, CNN
Tunisian firefighters have for the first time managed to contain the dangerous gas fire burning continuously for 4,000 years at a necropolis near the north African country’s border with Algeria.
The fire has been burning at the dig site — estimated to be 4,000 years old — since ancient times, according to the National Institute of Archaeology and Museums (INAR).
The blaze is situated in a site called the Souk Sidi Saheb, about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the French border.
In an online interview on news site ANI, Abdelmaqsoui Dharili, regional head of INAR in the Drissen region, said the fire had started in the Great Zaghrouz shrine and was still burning.
He said that when the firefighters arrived, the flames were much higher and the protective tiles were cracked.
“The fire was an albino blue. And the firemen had no tools that could fit under the fire. They had to use traditional tools to put out the fire,” Dharili told ANI.
“The field is about 4 kilometers in diameter,” he said. “It makes it impossible to control the fire with the existing equipment.”
The fire did damage to the tombstones, DEIR Defense News reported.
But DESFA, Tunisia’s national energy company, said late on May 17 that the fire has been brought under control.
Desgina’s statement read: “The gas fire has been definitively extinguished at Souk Sidi Saheb, as reported by the director of the National Institute of Archaeology (INAR).
“Within the last 24 hours, gas and water were used in a controlled way in order to put out the gas fire at the monoliths.”
What’s so ominous about these fires?
Fire experts say the smoke from these fires can lead to blood sucking “thickened skulls,” according to DEIR Defense News.
And while the situation has been calmed, experts say the gas can still be extremely hazardous. The smoke can linger in the air for months, putting human, animals and plants at risk.