(SOURCE) Families in a quiet southern England neighborhood were shocked when a massive sinkhole swallowed a chunk of their cul-de-sac, forcing them to evacuate their homes in the middle of the night this week.
According to BBC, residents in St Albans heard a loud crashing noise before the giant 66-foot wide, 33-foot deep hole opened up across a front garden and driveway on Fontmell Close in Hertfordshire County.
The sinkhole began a few days ago when a small hole opened up in the road, reports RT.com. According to Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service watch commander John Hudnott, the hole was the result of a leak in the water main.
Gas, water and electricty have been shut off in the area, leaving 58 houses without utilities.
“They had a sinkhole in Hemel [Hempstead] this year or last, but I’ve never seen one like this,” said Hudnott. “I have absolutely no idea how long it’s going to take to get the power back on. We thought it was the water leak, but now we’re not so sure.”
Five households and 20 people were evacuated, according to the Hertfordshire County Council. An evacuation center was opened up for displaced residents at a nearby sports center. Some residents opted to stay in hotels, while some remained in their homes. Others opted to stay with family or friends until their insurance companies have made arrangements.
“The return to normal is likely to take weeks and all agencies in Hertfordshire are working together to support families affected,” a Hertfordshire County Council spokesman told BBC, adding that no one was injure and no homes were damaged as a result of the sinkhole.
Sinkholes form because soluble bedrock such as limestone often create a barrier between layers of sand or dirt near the surface and underground aquifers. Over time, the limestone will be eroded by runoff from storms and groundwater, and when the rock layer wears away, the earth on top collapses.
The Hertfordshire County Council site states that holes of this kind tend to crop up across the area often for historic reasons, and that they reassure the public that it is rare for them to form large holes.