Saturday 24 August 2019

Giant 'sinkhole' swallows up dozens of cars outside restaurant

David Kearns

A 15-metre-wide 'sinkhole' opened up outside a busy restaurant in the southern US state of Mississippi, swallowing at least 15 cars.

Witnesses at the scene on Saturday reported hearing a series of booms before the power went out and the sinkhole appeared in the car park outside, local broadcaster MS News Now said.

Drone footage shot the next day shows the extent of the damage, with the hole running from the front of the restaurant all the way to a nearby creek some 180 metres away.

Emergency officials have sealed off the area to keep people away, said local station WTOK.

Meridian Public Safety Director Buck Roberts said the collapse was not technically a sinkhole, which is usually the result of an underground water aquifer that dries and leaves a void in the ground, according to The Meridian Star.

"You can call it what you want, a cave-in or whatever, but it is not a sinkhole," he said.

Speaking to NBC News, Mississippi patrol officer  Lieutenant Rita Jack with the Meridian Police said it was fortunate that no one was injured.

"The sinkhole is huge… if you imagine a football field cut in half, it is every bit of 50 feet wide and about 100 - 125 feet wide. We are talking 14 to 15 vehicles. It is very scary,” she said.

“We are gonna keep it under observation until we know that it is clear and safe.

"When we arrived on scene, 14 to 15 vehicles that we could see had fallen roughly 30 feet into the ground.

“We expect that there may be more and that they may fall further into the ground because there is only mud underneath."

Rain in the forecast could hamper the recovery effort, but officials expected to start moving cars within three to five days.

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