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We were just sent a link to Visit Sunny Chernobyl - a blog about "Pollution Tourism". Not sure why we hadn't come across that one before, but we're glad we have it on the radar now. They have a post linking to Good Magazine's piece on man-made disaster tourism spots. The place we're most interested in (not sure why, exactly) is the underground coal fire in Centralia, Pennsylvania.
Centralia was just another sleepy northeastern Pennsylvania town until the local coal mine was filled with a raging inferno that burned unabated for decades. Even that didn't disrupt the peaceful Centralia life until 1981, when a smoldering sinkhole nearly swallowed a 12-year-old boy. In the wake of the national attention that followed, Centralia became a cult travel destination. To this day, the subterranean fire is still burning. "You can drive through and not even notice," says Chris Perkel, who produced a documentary on the place. "But when the fire's close to the surface, the trees are blackened, and steam and smoke billow from the rocks."
The area's anthracite coal stoked the furnaces of the industrial revolution, but by the mid-19th century, companies left the region - and their messes - behind in favor of cheaper energy sources like petroleum. In 1962, burning garbage in an abandoned strip mine sparked a fire. In the years that followed, the flames grew as debate raged about whose problem it was to fix (the debate remains unresolved). Suddenly appearing sinkholes and carbon monoxide poisoning continued to threaten residents until
the 1980s, when Congress paid to relocate them and bulldozed their houses - though a handful of hard-core Centralians can still be found there.
posted by ryan griffis # 1:05 PM
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