A 66 feet wide crater opened up at 1 am in St Albans, Hertfordshire, England this morning, which lead to evacuation of six families from their homes and around 50 homes in the locality left without gas, water and electricity. The gaping hole was discovered early in the morning in Fontmell Close in the Roman town of St Albans, and the return of the residents is skeptical since the ground is apparently unsafe. The 30 feet gaping hole has blocked the street entrance, disturbing the regular lives of the residents.
via Daily Mail
Richard Thake, Hertfordshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Community Safety, commented on the incident: 'We will check all the archaeological and geological records. It has been asserted that this was built on a rubbish dump. I have no evidence for that, but we will carry out a full investigation,' he said. People think the ground under their feet is safe. It must come as an awful shock to discover it might not be. Until the results of the investigation are known it is not possible to say when, or if, people can return to their homes.'
Lawyer Karen Bridge, 39, who lives on the corner of Fontmell Close, said the residents first spotted a manhole cover that seemed to be sinking five days ago. She says, "There's a history because all around Fontmell Close are houses that were built in the 1960s and 1970s and before that it was brickworks, so that whole area is susceptible because they didn't fill the ground properly. So the land these houses are built on isn't filled ground. We were told when we had surveys done on our houses that it was in an area susceptible to the ground not being strong enough."
Maria Ellwood, 53, whose 80-year-old blind father has been asked to shift her father in a care home. Mrs Ellwood said, "They are advising everyone who lives in Fontmell Close to leave. It is going to be very difficult because a lot of residents who live here, like my dad, are elderly." It is traumatic for her father as well. "He is completely blind and he has other health problems as well. He's been living on his own for 10 years. He knows where everything is - he has to - even to the point where he knows where to go to get a teaspoon if he needs it. He has been crying, refusing to leave. He has been saying he just wants to die," she said.
Peter Hobbs, from the British Geological Survey (BGS), said: "Sinkholes are caused by dissolution of rock such as chalk. Alternatively, they can be caused by collapse into former mine workings (for flint within the chalk). Changes in the water table may affect the stability of underground cavities." He added, "Recently, the weather in this part of the country has been relatively dry and water tables may have lowered. The strata at the site consist of about 4m (13ft) of sands, silts and gravels overlying chalk. It isn't clear at present which of these factors could be the cause. Sinkholes in this chalk formation are not uncommon."