Analysis: Sinkhole in Guatemala 2010
Posted April 18, 2011on:
A huge sinkhole in Guatemala City (map), Guatemala, crashed into being on Sunday, reportedly swallowing a three-story building—and echoing a similar, 2007 sinkhole in Guatemala. The sinkhole has likely been weeks or even years in the making—floodwaters from tropical storm Agatha caused the sinkhole to finally collapse, scientists say.The sinkhole appears to be about 60 feet (18 meters) wide and about 30 stories deep, said James Currens, a hydrogeologist at the University of Kentucky. Sinkholes are natural depressions that can form when water-saturated soil and other particles become too heavy and cause the roofs of existing voids in the soil to collapse. Another way sinkholes can form is if water enlarges a natural fracture in a limestone bedrock layer. As the crack gets bigger, the topsoil gently slumps, eventually leaving behind a sinkhole. It’s unclear which mechanism is behind the 2010 Guatemala sinkhole, but in either case the final collapse can be sudden, Currens said.
2010 Guatemala Sinkhole Could Grow
A ruptured sewer line is thought to have caused the sinkhole that appeared in Guatemala City in 2007. The 2010 Guatemala sinkhole could have formed in a similar fashion, Currens said. A burst sanitary or storm sewer may have been slowly saturating the surrounding soil for a long time before tropical storm Agatha added to the inundation. “The tropical storm came along and would have dumped even more water in there, and that could have been the final trigger that precipitated the collapse,” Currens said. Depending on the makeup of the subsurface layer, the Guatemala sinkhole “could eventually enlarge and take in more buildings,” he said. Typically, officials fill in sinkholes with large rocks and other debris. But the 2010 Guatemala sinkhole “is so huge that it’s going to take a lot of fill material to fill it,” Currens said. Tropical Storm Agatha swept across Central America yesterday, bringing torrential rain that killed more than 100 people and opened a 60m-deep sinkhole in Guatemala City which reportedly swallowed up a three-storey building. The first named storm of the 2010 Pacific season dumped more than a metre of rain in parts of Guatemala, also hitting El Salvador and Honduras. At least 113 people were reported killed, with around 50 missing in Guatemala alone as rescue workers searched through the rubble. The 30m-diameter sinkhole opened up in a northern district of Guatemala City, with residents blaming the rains and substandard drainage systems. Local reports said one man was killed when the building was swallowed. In 2007, three people died when a similar sinkhole appeared in the same area. Guatemala was the worst affected country, with a confirmed death toll of 92, although that is likely to rise when rescuers reach remote villages. Almost 100,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. Nine people were confirmed killed in El Salvador and 12 in Honduras. “I’ve got no one to help me. I watched the water take everything,” Carlota Ramos told Reuters outside her mud-swamped brick house in Amatitlán, a town near the Guatemalan capital. The sinkhole swallowed an entire intersection, taking a whole building with it. It’s so deep that you can’t even see the bottom – and there are reports that this is only one of a collection of sinkholes the capital city. Some people thought that these photos had to be Photoshopped, but this photo came from the government’s official Flickr photostream. News reports indicated that no one was killed by the sinkhole itself. Why do sinkholes happen? Sinkholes are created when the underlying limestone or similar rock is eroded away by water that creates subsurface caves and caverns. The ground above the eroding rock then falls into the space. According to Wikipedia, these sinkholes can be dramatic because the surface land usually stays intact until there is not enough support. Then a sudden collapse of the land surface can occur, as it did in Guatemala City.
Tropical Storm Agatha was the first of the season – and it was powerful. Emergency crews struggled to reach isolated communities cut off by washed-out roads and collapsed bridges. To donate money for the relief efforts, go to the World Food Programme.
This is the second major Guatemala sinkhole to open up in the last three years. In 2007, a similar sinkhole killed three people.
Guatemala sinkhole follows volcano eruption, The Guatemala sinkhole disaster follows a long string of disasters near Guatemala city. Four days previous, the volcano Pacaya erupted, prompting the original declaration of a “state of calamity.” Between Tropical Storm Agatha, the eruption of Pacaya and earthquakes, Guatemala City has been experiencing more than its fair share of disasters. The small nation has been encountering debt management issues, and these disasters are sure to add to the problem.
Official photos of the Guatemala Sinkhole 2010, Before the Guatemala Sinkhole 2010 news hit most international news services, photos were available. The official Guatemala government Flickr account included photos of the endless-seeming sinkhole. Many parts of Guatemala have been evacuated because of Pacaya and fallout from the tropical storm. The state of calamity that was declared last weekend will continue to extend emergency powers to the Guatemalan government for the next month.