It seems a bit backward to think of there being a top ten sinkholes. These things are, at the end of the day, all about bottoms. Dragging whatever they can swallow down to nightmarish fates. So read on if you want to see just how flamboyantly the Earth can kill you without warning and also take care of the burial.
10. Winter Park, Florida
It certainly looks like the result of a massive, very precisely aimed bombing campaign, but luckily no one was killed by it or even injured. In fact, despite its four million dollars in damages, it apparently was a bit of a boon for the town, as it drew worldwide attention and people sold t-shirts and such around it. Before long it was filled with concrete and just became an unassuming lake. Those t-shirts must be some of the most embarrassing garments in all of Florida if any survive.
9. Daisetta, Texas
Growing from twenty feet to over nine hundred feet in diameter and 260 feet in depth, this well-documented sinkhole threatened the thousand person population of this town in 2008. Again, fortunately, no one was killed, although large amounts of equipment were lost to this hole brought on by limestone crumbling induced in part by the presence of salt water and oil. Then, as if to put a horror cherry on the disaster cake, a seven foot alligator moved in to the resulting waterhole.
8. Guanghzhou, China
In another case of a sinkhole that looks like it must have killed someone but fortunately didn’t so much as injure a single person, this one opened in January 2013.This is especially fortunate as it happened in a huge city and next to an apartment complex with three hundred people in it. Suspicions as to why this might have happened were directed at a nearby construction project, and also the fact bad plumbing in overcrowded areas often causes seepage and sinkholes in China.
7. Idaho Highway
There’s something inherently undignified about the thought of being killed by something as small and nonthreatening as a gopher that it actually becomes kind of a scarier notion. On August 9, 2012, Sonia Lopez was driving to work when a section of highway collapsed and she fell in, dying at the scene. Something that happens all the time and with no warning. It is worth noting, though, that she did not have her seatbelt buckled, so let this be a reminder that even in long boring stretches no other traffic where it seems there is no risk, it might not be worth it to have it unfastened.
6. Seffner, Florida
On March 1, 2013, a sleeping 36 year-old man in Seffner, FL was taken to the bottom of a sinkhole in his bedroom. It was such a deadly situation that rescuers couldn’t even even a fifty foot radius of the hole safely, and thus his rescue was delayed until after he was presumed deceased. At least the other five people that were in the house with him at the time were unharmed. The event so completely captured the public imagination that a totally unrelated sinkhole that didn’t harm anyone in the same town became national news.
5. Taipei, Taiwan
As we saw in Entry #9, there is dramatic footage of sinkholes collapsing. There is comparatively little footage of people being killed by them. That changed in August 2012, when an anonymous individual was captured by security cameras in plunging through collapsing sidewalks. At the time, the city was being battered by Hurricane Saola, which would have been exactly the sort of thing that would bring this about over time by weakening the bedrock.
4. Guatemala City
Sinking to 330 feet, Guatemala City’s 2007 sinkhole looked like a portal to Hell had finally opened up. It claimed the lives of three people, and caused such a massive sewer problem that the military needed to use explosives to repair the flow. Which was ironic, since a broken sewer main was thought to be cause of the sinkhole in the first place. Surely that would be the worst sinkhole in the city’s history.
3. St. Jude, Quebec
Unlike Jeff Bush’s family, there were no survivors in this May 10, 2010 sinkhole incident. A family of four’s house was destroyed when the clay soil their home was situated on collapsed, and the result was so unstable that rescue workers that went into the house had to retreat when the house resumed moving. None of them were reported as being injured. There was little cause for concern prior to the event, as the location was far from the nearest large body of water.
2. Guatemala City Again
In 2010, Hurricane Agatha caused such terrible groundwater problems in the city that another horrifying sinkhole appeared, again sinking down more than three hundred feet.
This time it ate a three story building, and sadly, fifteen people were killed by it. Horrific images of it spread around the world again. This second sinkhole was two kilometers from the original. Hopefully this time, it will be the worst sinkhole for the rest of the city’s history.
A busy trading center and a fortress city, five thousand years ago Ubar (which is now suspected of actually being named “Iobaritae” when it was in a region called Ubar) must have seemed as secure and permanent as Los Angeles does today. Then it sunk into the dunes because the underground water supply, the very thing that had made it a prosperous area, undermined its soil. In the 1980s archaeologists, using a NASA satellite, located roads leading to the remains of Ubar, which had become legendary as “the Atlantis of the Sands,” in the Arabian Peninsula. Similarly, it developed a reputation as having been punished by the supreme being for having become too materialistic. Again, that’s eerily similar to Los Angeles.
Dustin Koski is the author of Six Dances to End the World.