(SOURCE) A Louisiana sinkhole that has sucked in trees and swamps as it spread to the size of 20 football fields is now at risk of exploding.
Residents of Bayou Corne were evacuated a year ago when the sinkhole, which is emitting natural gases, opened up.
The gas exploration company that has been blamed for causing the problem after a mine collapsed, has resorted to digging relief wells to try to disperse the gas.
Louisiana state is suing Texas Brine as it tries to recoup $8 million used to deal with the sinkhole, including bringing in a team of scientists, according to The Verge.
While no homes have yet been sucked in, officials warn that the gases being emitted could ignite, which would leave the Louisiana swamp looking like ‘the gates of Hell’.
The Louisiana sinkhole, which is expected to expand to 50 acres, is currently 25 acres wide and 350ft deep in some points. Methane bubbling up from it has also escaped into an aquifer.
Experts fear that if oil and gas rising to the surface became trapped it could build up in a crevice and then explode.
John Boudreaux, who is part of the parish’s emergency preparedness team, said about 6 million cubic feet of natural gas was trapped beneath the surface. He said only 5 per cent needed to get in the air for it to ignite.
Scientists are constantly monitoring the affected region and several weeks ago noticed a rise in micro-earthquake activity, from an average of 10 to 15 a day to 326 in one 24-hour period.
The sinkhole appeared overnight in August last year, when the wall of a salt mine 5,000ft underground collapsed, sucking in surrounding water and releasing gas.