- Authorities found a 105-feet-wide, 656-feet-deep sinkhole in Copiapó, Chile on Monday.
- Sinkholes can be manmade or naturally occurring.
- Here are a few sinkholes that have appeared around the world in the past several years.
A mysterious sinkhole estimated to be about 105 feet wide and 656 feet deep — about as long as a basketball court and as tall as a nearly 50-story building — emerged near a mining site in northern Chile on Saturday, according to the National Service of Geology and Mining, a Chilean government agency.
“There is a considerable distance, approximately [656 feet], to the bottom,” David Montenegro, a director at the National Service of Geology and Mining, told Reuters. “We haven’t detected any material down there, but we have seen the presence of a lot of water.”
Investigators are looking into possible causes for the collapse, which joins the ranks of other mysterious sinkholes that have cropped up over the years.
Sinkholes can be naturally occurring or manmade. They most commonly occur in areas with “karst terrain,” where the rocks below the surface “can naturally be dissolved by groundwater circulating through them,” according to the US Geological Survey.
When the water beneath the land slowly dissolves and carries away the rock, eventually the ground collapses often in very dramatic form.
In cities, sinkholes can emerge after a water main break or a burst pipe. They can also occur in areas where there is abundant rain, according to National Geographic.
At least in the US, there is no database tracking the number of sinkholes, according to the USGS. Oftentimes, they go unreported especially when they happen in rural areas.
The damages can be extensive, however, from financial tolls to deaths. In the past 15 years, the USGS estimates that sinkholes cost at least $300 million per year on average in the US. And the costs are probably much higher, the agency states. It’s unclear how many have died from this phenomenon.
Here are some sinkholes that have appeared in the past several years.