The ground beneath our feet, our cars, our buildings, appears to be incredibly solid. But, rarely, that solid ground can simply open up without warning, dropping whatever was above into an unpredictably deep.hole. Sinkholes can be anywhere from a few feet wide and deep, to two thousand feet in diameter and depth. An undiscovered cavern or deep mine can collapse, allowing the ground above to crater, or a broken water main or heavy storm can erode a hole from below, until the surface becomes a thin shell that collapses at once. Communities built atop karst formations are very susceptible, where a layer of bedrock is water-soluble, like limestone, and natural processes can wear away caves and fissures, weakening support of the ground above. Gathered here are images of some of these sinkholes, both man-made and natural, around the world.
A car at the bottom of a sinkhole caused by a broken water line in Toledo, Ohio on July 3, 2013. Police say the driver, 60-year-old Pamela Knox of Toledo, was shaken up and didn't appear hurt but was taken to a hospital as a precaution. Fire officials told a local TV station that a water main break caused the large hole.
(AP Photo/Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld, Toledo Fire and Rescue)
A Los Angeles fireman looks under a fire truck stuck in a sinkhole in the Valley Village neighborhood of Los Angeles, on September 8, 2009. Four firefighters escaped injury early Tuesday after their fire engine sunk into a large hole caused by a burst water main in the San Fernando Valley, authorities said.
(AP Photo/Nick Ut)
On the night of November 11, 1957, a huge hole opened up in Seattle's Ravenna neighborhood, caused by the failure of an underlying six-foot diameter sewer pipe. The 60-foot-deep hole affected only the streets, sidewalks and some yards, as seen in this photo taken at 16th Ave. NE and Ravenna Blvd on November 15, 1957. No homes were damaged, and nobody was injured, but the hole took two years to fill and repair. More on the story here. Also, see this intersection today on Google Maps Street View.
(Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives)
A man inspects a sinkhole formed in a house on July 19, 2011 in the north of Guatemala City. When neighbors heard a loud boom overnight they thought a gas canister had detonated. Instead they found a deep sinkhole inside a home in a neighborhood just north of Guatemala City. The sinkhole was 12.2 meters (40 feet) deep and 80 centimeters (32 inches) in diameter, an AFP journalist who visited the site reported. Guatemala City, built on volcanic deposits, is especially prone to sinkholes, often blamed on a leaky sewer system or on heavy rain.
(Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images)
In June of 1994, a huge hole, 106 ft. wide by 185 ft. deep, opened in the center of an IMC-Agrico waste stack near Mulberry, Florida. The sinkhole, shown in this July 13, 1994 photo, released 20.8 million pounds of liquid phosphoric acid into the ground below, and into the Floridan aquifer, which provides 90 percent of the state's drinking water. The company voluntarily spent $6.8 million to plug the sinkhole and control the spread of contaminants in the ground water.
Police tape surrounds the house of Jeff Bush, who was consumed by a sinkhole while lying in his bed on the night of April 30, 2013 in Seffner, Florida. First responders were not able to reach Bush after he disappeared and were unable to even recover the body. The house and two neighboring houses were later demolished.
(Edward Linsmier/Getty Images)
The Lassing mining disaster. On July 17, 1998 a Talc mine below the town of Lassing, Austria, experienced a partial collapse, filling with groundwater and opening up a sinkhole in the town above. Shortly after, a rescue crew of 10 men went into the mine to search for a single missing miner, and a massive collapse followed, opening up an even larger crater above. The first missing miner was found alive after ten days, but all ten of the rescue team members were killed. Here, workers examine the crater, on July 22, 1998.
(AP Photo/ Martin Gnedt)
Workers use machinery to fill in a sinkhole that buildings collapsed into near a subway construction site in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China, on January 28, 2013. The hole measured about 1,000 square feet, and was around 30 feet deep, but no one was killed, according to a state media report.
A bus, after falling into a pit created by an underground explosion in Rui'an, Zhejiang province, on January 16, 2011. An explosion on a road in east China's Zhejiang Province tossed a bus without passengers four meters into the air, injuring the driver and a 6-year-old boy on the roadside, local fire fighters said on Sunday. The cause of the explosion was under investigation, Xinhua News Agency reported.
People stand next to a 24.9 meter (82 feet) diameter pit at a village in Guangyuan, Sichuan province, on February 28, 2013. According to local media the pit formed on a karst landform last year after the ground surface kept sinking for six days in September. The investigators said the pit may face further sinking after rains due to its geological conditions.