National Geographic News
A giant sinkhole.
A 30-story-deep sinkhole appeared in Guatemala City on February 23.

Photograph from Reuters, illustration by Paul Hannan/National Geographic Digital Media

Ted Chamberlain

National Geographic News

February 26, 2007

SEE 2010 UPDATE—new sinkhole, new picture: sinkhole in Guatemala 2010.

After rumbling for weeks, part of a poor Guatemala City neighborhood plummeted some 30 stories into the Earth on Friday.

The reportedly 330-foot-deep (100-meter-deep) sinkhole swallowed about a dozen homes and is so far blamed in the deaths of three people—two teenagers, found floating in torrent of sewage, and their father, who was pulled from the chasm.

Rainstorms and a ruptured sewer main may have caused the sinkhole, officials in Guatemala told the Associated Press. After the collapse, the seemingly bottomless depths gave off tremors, sounds of flowing water, and the scent of sewage.

Sinkholes can occur when underground rocks that can be dissolved by water—such as salt, gypsum, and limestone—are inundated. The removal of groundwater can also leave gaps underground that can lead to sinkholes.

While the cause of the Guatemala City abyss remains uncertain, it's effects are undeniable.

Police established a 500-yard (457-meter) no-go zone around the sinkhole, and nearly a thousand people were forced to evacuate—some perhaps forever.

"Last night a friend had to take my handicapped wife out on motorcycle," 15-year resident Antonio Fuentes, 50, told the Associated Press. "Now I'm leaving for good, never to come back."

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