Though there have been many cases of sinkholes swallowing up garbage bins, trees or even a car or two, one large enough to devour entire buildings, has never been encountered before! That however changed when the ground suddenly gave away on January 29th, 2013 in central Guangzhou, the capital of China's Guangdong Province.
According to witnesses it all began late in the afternoon. A construction crew working on an underground railway tunnel noticed the land nearby starting to sink. They quickly raised the alarm and all 300 people in the building right above it and the surrounding areas were immediately evacuated.
Then as they all waited with abated breath, they heard some deafening noises and right before their eyes, the ground began to give away, taking with it the entire building which was believed to have housed five shops and some residences. If that wasn't enough, soon after, another building met the same fate disappearing like a crumbling cookie inside the giant hole that was reported to be between 1,000 to 3,200 sq. feet wide and 30 feet deep. As soon as the ground stabilized, construction workers were quickly brought in, to fill the gaping hole, a task that reportedly took the entire night!
What was the most amazing part about this incident is that nobody was injured. The only unfortunate part is that all those evacuated have no place to work or live and unless they rebuild in the same area, may have to relocate. In addition to that the sinkhole, which also took with it several electrical wires and telephone poles, has left about 3,000 homes without power.
Sinkholes, defined as depressions in the Earth's surface can be natural or man-made. They occur naturally, when the area underneath the surface comprises of salt beds or soluble sedimentary rocks like limestone, which gradually dissolve in the groundwater flowing through, and create subterranean caverns that suddenly collapse.
They can also be caused by poor construction planning. In China's case, people suspect it may have do with the latter, especially given that there has been a drastic increase in sinkholes over the last few years - A period that coincides with a construction boom to accommodate the country's growing urban population.
Sources:ibtimes.com,stuff.co.nz,shangaiist.com, csmonitor.com, nationalgeographic.com