Chinese Village Located on Top of Methane Gas Pocket Could Be Ignited by a Single Spark

The village of Nanjiawan, in south-west China is known as the Invisible Fire Village. The air over there is so thick with methane gas that a single spark can ignite a huge fire. Villagers have learned to live with and even make use of the methane, but they are also very cautious when working, so not to start fires accidentally.

The methane in the village air actually comes from the ground – it seeps out of the soil, causing the air to randomly burst into balls of fire. The concentration of the gas is so high that no one in the village can ever strike a match, light a cigarette or use any electrical equipment. They need to be careful while working in the fields as well, because their metal tools could create sparks if struck against a rock.


Photo: CFP

The gas was discovered about a year ago when 83-year-old Su Geng complained to the authorities of a strange smell in her cellar. “They told me after doing a test that there was methane leaking out of the ground,” she said. “They set fire to the air to prove it to me.”


Photo: CFP

According to a local police spokesperson, 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.” That does sound like a perfectly logical explanation, but surprisingly, several villagers don’t believe it.


Photo: CFP

They choose to blame evil spirits instead, calling in priests to get rid of the fire. Naturally, it didn’t work. But the villagers continue to believe in superstitions, despite scientific proof of the presence of methane. “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 evil spirits and other hocus pocus are at play,” said the police spokesperson.


Photo: CFP

Several villagers from Nanjiawan and its surrounding areas live in the fear that the ‘invisible fire’ will one day engulf the whole region. But the more intelligent of the lot have made the most of the situation. They have dug up tunnels under their homes and used the gas to create a basic underfloor heating system.


Photo: CFP

Methane leaks from the earth is more common than you think, it actually occurs in several places around the world. There is this one hillside on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, where fires have been burning for thousands of years – thanks to methane gas. There is no way to stop it from happening, so it looks like the families of Nanjiawan will either have to live with the gas or abandon the village if the situation worsens.

Sources:, Daily Mail

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