Ottawa sinkhole: Weeks before street can re-open, van to remain buried

Click to play video: 'Precautionary borne water advisory issued for some businesses: GM of emergency services'
Precautionary borne water advisory issued for some businesses: GM of emergency services
A precautionary boil water advisory has been issued for some businesses around the area of the massive sinkhole in Ottawa, said Anthony Di Monte, the general manager of emergency and protective services. – Jun 9, 2016

The water has stopped gushing, and no more vans are tumbling into the cavernous abyss that opened in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday, but officials say it will be weeks before things are back to normal.

As of late Wednesday, the city said it had moved from a “response” to a “recovery” phase as it deals with a massive sinkhole at the corner of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive.

According to Ottawa mayor Jim Watson, it will take “one to two weeks” before traffic can flow down Rideau Street again.

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Dozens of trucks pulled up to the edge of the hole on Wednesday night and dumped 2,700 cubic metres of cement into the hole in an effort to stabilize it. Other crews worked to pump water out. Watson tweeted about the efforts as they unfolded.

There is still no word on what caused the crater to open, but there are a few strong theories now being floated – including soft soil in the area and construction deep below the street linked to the capital’s new light-rail transit system.

“We are still determining the cause of the road collapse,” Watson told reporters on Thursday afternoon.

The foundations of nearby buildings have all been secured and the hole is no longer expanding, said Steve Cripps, director of Ottawa’s rail implementation office.

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READ MORE: Ottawa sinkhole takes on life of its own with memes, Twitter accounts

Van to remain buried

The mayor confirmed that a van that fell into the sinkhole has been buried in cement, along with a small piece of construction equipment that had been sitting at street level. The two will remain buried, Watson said, but both will be crushed under the weight of the cement and shouldn’t compromise the integrity of the filled hole.

Workers were not able to lift the van out of the sinkhole as the equipment required to remove it couldn’t get close to the edge of the crater, officials explained.

The van was reportedly illegally parked on Rideau Street, and the owner had asked to move it, but it was determined to be too dangerous. Moments later, it tumbled into the sinkhole.

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Officials were also asked on Thursday if filling the hole so quickly could compromise their ability to determine what caused it to form in the first place. They responded that the water pipes that broke inside were removed to be examined, and investigators will also have access to other sources of information.

The hole itself wouldn’t yield much at this point, Watson explained.

Bus narrowly escaped disaster

Before the sinkhole opened, traffic along that section of Rideau Street had been largely limited to OC Transpo buses. OC Transpo’s general manager, John Manconi, confirmed that a bus carrying over 40 passengers passed over the area where the hole formed two or three minutes before the pavement split.

Dozens of buses that normally travel down Rideau Street are now being redirected to the other side of the Rideau Centre shopping mall, causing higher-than-normal volumes of bus traffic along the Mackenzie King Bridge.

A map provided by the City of Ottawa shows how traffic is being diverted around the site of a massive sinkhole. Open streets are in green and blue, closed ones in red. City of Ottawa

The bridge is being sporadically closed to non-transit vehicles to help move buses through more quickly.

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Ottawa residents and tourists are being told to avoid the sinkhole, but are being encouraged to support local businesses in the blocks surrounding it, which will likely lose customers as vehicle traffic moving through the neighbourhood plummets.

Regular updates on the situation are being provided on the city’s website.


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