A yawning sinkhole has damaged several fields and now threatens to swallow up a farmhouse in Mexico, where officials are scrambling to figure out why it showed up in the first place.
Striking photos show the lonely farmhouse teetering on the edge of the massive, water-filled sinkhole in the rural community of Santa Maria Zacatepec.
The sinkhole measured five metres in diameter when it first appeared on Saturday, but it quickly grew to roughly 60 metres in diameter in a matter of hours, according to officials in the state of Puebla.
The hole is now 20 metres deep and partially filled with swirling water, Puebla Gov. Miguel Barbosa Huerta said Monday.
The family living at the home has since been evacuated, and no one has been injured by the sinkhole.
State officials have warned people to stay away and are now studying the hole to determine why it opened in the first place.
“We think that it might be a combination of two factors: the softening of the field, the whole area was being cultivated, as well as the extraction of groundwater, which softens the subsoil,” said Beatriz Manrique, the environmental secretary for the region.
Local activists have suggested that the hole might have been caused by overexploitation of aquifers in the area.
It’s unclear what officials expect to do with the hole, or whether more of the earth might collapse in the future.
Sinkholes are rare but potentially devastating geological events, according to the U.S. Geological Service (USGS). They typically occur in places where groundwater has dissolved the rock that supports the earth on the surface. When the rock gives way, everything above it comes crashing down into the cavern beneath it.
“Typically, sinkholes form so slowly that little change is noticeable,” the USGS says on its website. “But they can form suddenly when a collapse occurs.”