March 1, 2013 12:49 pm

A list of the worst sinkholes in Canada and around the world


Many Canadians were likely shocked by the story of a Florida man who was swallowed by a giant sinkhole that opened under his bedroom on Friday.  

For many Canadians, natural disasters like sinkholes are something we read about, that usually happen someplace far away. After all, the greatest natural disaster we face is eight long months of winter.
So you may be surprised to discover that in Canada, sinkholes are hardly a rare occurrence. 
Global News has compiled a list of the worst Canadian sinkholes of the last few years, as well the most stunning – and devastating – sinkhole events from around the world. 

Highway sinkhole swallows sedan


Juan Pedro Unger was driving home on Highway 174 east of Ottawa on Sept. 4, 2012 when he spotted a large black patch on the road ahead. By the time he realized it was a sinkhole in the road, it was too late.
The pit, a result of a collapsed storm sewer pipe under the highway, was large enough to swallow Unger’s four-door sedan whole – only his bumper was still visible from the road. 
Fortunately, Unger was able to climb out of his vehicle with the help of passersby who stopped to aid him, and no one was seriously hurt. 

Montreal students protest at future sinkhole site  

Just a few months before Mr. Unger’s accidental auto-spelunking expedition, a rainy afternoon in Montreal saw the streets filled with thousands of student protestors.   

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And just a few hours after a giant crowd had moved down Sherbrooke street near McGill University, a four-metre sinkhole had formed in the centre of the road.
The sinkhole was actually caused by a faulty sewer line, and it was simple luck that kept it from forming under the protest march. 
Not so lucky: Montreal commuters, who had to contend not only with protest-clogged streets, but also a giant hole in the middle of a major road right around rush hour. 

Wawa, Ontario motel gets unwanted renovation
During late October of last year, the northern Ontario town of Wawa experienced torrential rains, leading to flooding of the local rivers and lakes. 
One major consequence of this flooding was the emergence of a sinkhole underneath the Northern Lights Motel.
Located just north of Wawa, the 16-room motel was completely consumed by the sinkhole – at the time, an OPP spokesperson said the motel was simply “gone.” 
Fortunately, the Northern Lights motel was a seasonal establishment, and no guests were checked in when the motel sunk. 

Saskatoon’s scary sinkhole
Most of the time, when a sinkhole develops in Canada it’s due to a problem with underground pipes, or a case of extremely bad weather. 
But a three-metre wide sinkhole that opened on Idylwyld Drive north of 29th Street in Saskatoon, Sasketchewan, on March 12, 2012 was actually caused by both.
Constant freezing and thawing can put pressure on underground pipes, and an unseasonably warm winter caused a 20-centimetre pipe under the roadway to break, spewing water. 
Luckily, no one was injured. 

Toronto doubles up on sinkholes
Even the biggest city in Canada is hardly immune to the sinkhole phenomenon, as two sinkholes appeared in the city of Toronto within the space of a few weeks. 
On September 28, 2011 a ruptured street watermain at Woodbine Avenue and John Street created a fissure that was ten metres long, three metres wide and several metres deep.
Then on November 4th of the same year, another broken watermain on Bayview Avenue north of Steeles caused a sinkhole 30 metres long to and 1.5 metres deep to form. 
Once more, the only casualties of these sinkholes were commuters’ patience. 

Winnipeg highway ceases to exist


Finally, the most dramatic example of a Canadian sinkhole may have been last summer’s disappearing highway in Manitoba.
After days of heavy rain dumped as many as 12 inches of precipitation, the sloped ground surrounding highway 83 near Inglis simply washed away – and took the highway with it. 
Around 200 metres of highway were lost in the torrential rains, and at some points the highway sat as low as eight metres below its original surface point. 

The best of the worst
As you can see, Canada has experienced its fair share of sinkholes. Still, most of the time, Canadian sinkholes are man-made, and are more inconvienences than large-scale natural disasters. 
Here, we’ve noted a few of the most stunning – and devastating – sinkhole events ever. 

Guatemala City (x2)
Perhaps the two most notorious sinkhole disasters both occurred in Guatemala City, capital of Guatemala. 
In 2007, a massive pit over 100 metres deep opened in the heart of the city, believed to be the result of a broken sewage pipe.
Then in 2010, another 60 metre-deep sinkhole formed in the city, thought to be the result of floodwaters from tropical storm Agatha. 
Three people were killed in these two sinkholes, and thousands were forced from their homes. 

Berezniki, Russia
In 1986, a large sinkhole believed to be the result of shoddy mining practices formed in the Russian town of Berezniki, and has been slowly growing ever since. 
Today, the sinkhole is over 200 metres deep and 40 metres wide, and is in danger of severing the town’s only major rail line.

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