A deep and massive sinkhole has opened up in Mexico, measuring 300ft in diameter and expanding rapidly to threaten a large farmhouse.
The gaping sinkhole is more than 60ft deep and located in Santa María Zacatepec, Puebla state. It has also filled up with water, said state governor Miguel Barbosa Huerta at a press conference on Monday.
Dramatic images showing the scale of the hole have been widely shared online – but when it was first spotted on Saturday it measured just 15ft across. The family living nearby say it grew suddenly in the space of just 24 hours after a loud thud was heard, reported Newsweek.
“It is a matter of enormous risk,” the governor said. People have been evacuated from the house that is now teetering at the rim of the sinkhole, and locals have been asked by the authorities to stay away from the area.
The owners of the threatened home, Magdalena and Heriberto Sánchez, said they heard a crash and saw ground water bubbling.
They said they are saddened because they built their house with a “lot of effort, sacrifice” and now face the prospect of losing it all.
“At 6 o’clock we heard thunder and we did not think this was it, and then my in-laws realised it. When I got closer, I saw that the earth sank and how the water was bubbling and I panicked,” Ms Sánchez said.
“We have nothing. We’re not from here. We have no relatives. We’re alone,” Mr Sánchez, who is from the state of Veracruz, told the AFP news agency.
Beatriz Manrique, environmental secretary for the Mexico region, said the sinkhole could be because of softening of the soil over time or due to the extraction of groundwater.
“We think that it might be a combination of two factors: the softening of the field, the whole area was being cultivated, as well as the extraction of groundwater, which softens the subsoil,” said Ms Manrique. An investigation into the cause has begun.
Locals also weighed in, saying they believed the farmland was situated over what used to be a large pond, known locally as a jagüey.
“A long time ago there was a jagüey there, but we don’t know why they covered it, but we think that the water struggled to regain its space and that is why it appeared,” a local told TV Azteca.
The appearance of a sinkhole is more common after strong seismic activity. It occurs when the ground becomes too weak to support the land above it, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).
The locals have been baffled by the unusual geological phenomenon and a large number of people have been coming to the site to witness it.
The governor promised the public that the government was aware of the situation and that so far no one had been harmed.
“It is a geological fault that must be addressed with great care, with technique, and with all the precautions and we are doing it,” he concluded.
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