Curious Fact of the Week: The Sinkholes of Guatemala City - Atlas Obscura
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Curious Fact of the Week: The Sinkholes of Guatemala City

Guatemala City Sinkhole

You never want to think that the ground could just suddenly gape open beneath you and swallow your neighborhood whole, yet that’s been a a disastrous trend in Guatemala City. Back in 2007, a sinkhole 330-feet deep yawned open, taking five people with it, as well as a substantial swath of one of the city’s poorer and more densely populated areas. 

Guatemala City SinkholeThe 2010 sinkhole (Associated Press, via horslips5/Flickr)

The fact more people were not consumed was miraculous for the size of the hole, but a bigger disaster was already forming beneath the city. In 2010, another sinkhole suddenly opened, this one 65-feet across and 30-stories deep, killing 15 people and gobbling a factory three-stories tall. Both sinkholes were blamed on a combination of the porous volcanic soil beneath Guatemala City, as well as recent rains (particularly Tropical Storm Agatha in 2010) and the deteriorating sewer pipes below the streets. Naturally, a better inspection by the government of these pipes has been urged in the wake of the city being eaten by their collapse. 

Guatemala City Sinkhole(photograph by johnbullas/Flickr)

It should be noted that, since there is human error involved and they’re not purely a natural phenomenon, these aren’t scientifically-speaking sinkholes, but rather “piping features,” which makes them sound like an innocuous bit of infrastructure. While these two incidents remain the most horrific, and surreal, of the sinkholes in Guatemala, the problem has not ended there. In 2011, a 40-foot sinkhole was found in a Guatemala City house beneath a woman’s bed. For now, the citizens of Guatemala City are likely treading lightly and always aware of the danger that remains ready to take the ground from beneath their feet.

THE GREAT GUATEMALAN SINKHOLE, Guatemala City, Guatemala 


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