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10 places ruined by man-made catastrophes

Jan. 23, 2012, 9:04 a.m.
green bench with "Centralia 1866" written on it

Photo: ZUMA Press

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Centralia, Pa.

Centralia is an old coal mining town once populated by more than 1,000 residents. Today, it is a smoldering ghost town, perpetually burning like a hell pit, with deadly fumes of carbon monoxide rising from cracks in the ground. What happened?

Centralia had to be abandoned after a fire broke out in 1962 in the coal mines that run underneath the town — a fire that continues to burn today, and may continue to burn for the next 250 years. Residents have since been evicted and the town's ZIP code has been revoked.

The mine fire was dramatically described by David DeKok in 1986 in his book "Unseen Danger: A Tragedy of People, Government and the Centralia Mine Fire": "This was a world where no human could live, hotter than the planet Mercury, its atmosphere as poisonous as Saturn's. At the heart of the fire, temperatures easily exceeded 1,000 degrees. Lethal clouds of carbon monoxide and other gases swirled through the rock chambers."