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What are sinkholes and what triggers them?

T U E S D AY 18 FEBRUARY 2014

Sinkholes are appearing across Britain as rain batters the U an! "loo!s contin#e to s$a%p so%e areas & b#t $hat are the'( an! is hea)' rain reall' to bla%e "or that sinking "eeling*

A 5ft wide hole that opened up beneath a 100-year-old detached house in Ripon, North Yorkshire is the latest in a spate of sinkholes in the UK !t appeared on "onday, days after a #5ft wide and $0ft deep sinkhole opened up under ho%es in a &uiet cul-de-sac in 'e%el 'e%pstead, 'ertfordshire (ast week, a stretch of the "$ in north Kent was closed after a 15ft deep hole was disco)ered in the central reser)ation, and on $ *ebruary a teena+er,s car was swallowed up when a #0ft deep crater appeared in a fa%ily,s dri)eway in 'i+h -yco%be, .uckin+ha%shire /o what,s +oin+ on0 /inkholes are fri+htenin+, dra%atic and can be )ery sudden not at all the .ritish countryside,s nor%al beha)iour 1erhaps predictably thou+h, they can be linked back to so%ethin+ which is rather %ore traditionally .ritish2 rain And we,)e had plenty of that in recent weeks, leadin+ in so%e areas to )ery

serious floodin+

What are sinkholes?


Accordin+ to the U/ 3eolo+ical /ur)ey, sinkholes are co%%on where the rock below the surface is li%estone, carbonate rock, salt beds, or other kinds of rock which can naturally be dissol)ed by +roundwater circulatin+ throu+h the% As the rock dissol)es, spaces and ca)erns de)elop under+round /inkholes are dra%atic because the land usually stays intact for a while until the under+round spaces 4ust +et too bi+ !f there is not enou+h support for the land abo)e the under+round ca)erns, then a sudden collapse of the land on the surface can occur - a sinkhole /inkholes can be di)ided into two types *irst, there are co)er-collapse sinkholes, which can de)elop abruptly 5o)er a period of hours6 and cause catastrophic da%a+e

7he for%ation of sinkholes, fro% the .ritish 3eolo+ical /ur)ey /econdly, there are co)er-subsidence sinkholes, which for% slowly o)er ti%e with the +round +radually subsidin+ or deflatin+ 7hese types of e)ents can be less noticeable and +o undetected for lon+ periods

/inkhole collapses can ran+e in si8e and se)erity /inkholes can )ary fro% a few feet to hundreds of acres and fro% less than one foot to %ore than 100ft deep 7hey ha)e all kinds of disastrous conse&uences, and ha)e been seen to swallow up swi%%in+ pools, parts of roadways, and e)en buildin+s

What triggers sinkholes?


A ran+e of factors - natural and %an-induced - can tri++er sinkhole collapse, and hea)y rain or surface floodin+ are considered to be e9a%ples of tri++ers :r ;anessa .anks fro% the .ritish 3eolo+ical /ur)ey, told <hannel = News2 >7he +round is saturated at the %o%ent, in certain parts of the country, and where it,s saturated, it will re%ain saturated for so%e weeks, if not %onths >3radually the situation will i%pro)e, but in the short ter% ! suspect there will be %ore of these incidents bein+ reported > "ost of the areas in the UK which can be susceptible to sinkholes are relati)ely s%all or are in upland rural locations 7hey ha)e also been known to occur in areas includin+ the "endips, parts of -ales, and the northern 1ennines includin+ the Yorkshire :ales

?ld coal%ine shafts in Yorkshire ha)e been known as a cause of holes which could >theoretically> be the case in Kent but is it >%ore likely to be related> to the probable chalk or li%estone %ake-up of the area alon+ with the rainfall, /arah *ray, director of @n+ineerin+ and 7echnical /er)ices at the !nstitution of /tructural @n+ineers, told <hannel = News /he described the hole alon+ the "$ as >unpredictable> /he said2 ><halk and li%estone is alkaline and rainwater is acidic - if you put acidic water on it, it dissol)es o)er a period of ti%e which can happen o)er a %illenia > 7his can be a particular proble% when the chalk is co)ered by clay and sand deposits >-hen you ha)e a lot of rain, this can %obilise the soil,> said "s *ray

<hannel = News has tracked down so%e of the world,s %ost spectacular sinkholes

<oncrete is poured into a = 5% wide sinkhole on the dri)eway of a house in -alters Ash, southern @n+land in *ebruary $01= 7he hole swallowed a car which was not reco)ered and the A%-deep crater is now bein+ filled with #00 tonnes of concrete

7he study of sinkholes attracted considerable %edia attention in $01# after the tra+ic death of a %an at /effner near 7a%pa, *lorida A sinkhole, that had for%ed beneath Beff .ush,s house, >swallowed> hi% when the house floor collapsed

?ne of the %ost spectacular e9a%ples is the collapse that occurred in "ay $010 in 3uate%ala <ity 'ere, ca)ities de)eloped in weak, unconsolidated )olcanic

deposits followin+ a tropical stor% 7hese then collapsed, creatin+ a shaft appro9i%ately 100% deep and $0% wide

7here was a pre)ious sinkhole elsewhere in 3uate%ala <ity in $00C, which killed three people when se)eral houses were swallowed up

1a%ela Kno9 waits to be rescued after a %assi)e sinkhole opened up underneath

her car in 7oledo, ?hio in Buly $01#

<ars lie in a sinkhole, caused when a road collapsed into an under+round ca)e syste%, in the southern !talian town of 3allipoli in $00C