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JHARIA, India — For nearly a century now, fires have burned beneath the ground where Mohammad Riyaz Ansari stands. At night, ghostly blue flares shoot from glowing rocks, like a terrible hell on Earth.
The 55-year-old mechanic and his neighbours here, deep in eastern India’s coal country, live above underground coal fires that are eating away at their land, India’s precious natural resources and, say some, government credibility.
As the ground subsides, thousands of houses, including Ansari’s, have sagged, collapsed or fallen into chasms over the years, including 250 destroyed over two hours in 1995.
In this eerie landscape — the plumes of flame igniting periodically as combustible gas escapes from the subterranean fires — locals speak of neighbours swallowed in their sleep. In 2006, for instance, 14-year-old Mira Kumari vanished while cooking when her house fell 15 metres underground. Her body was never recovered. Continue Reading →