More sinkholes will open up across Britain as the effects of flooding continue, warns British Geological Survey

 

Environment Editor

A A A

A spate of sinkholes have opened up across the country as floodwater dissolves the underlying rock, while a “second wave” is likely to appear in the coming weeks as the rain stops and the ground begins to dry, the British Geological Survey warned yesterday.

The number of sinkholes reported has soared to six so far this month – many times more than the one to two that is typical across the whole of a normal year, experts said.

These have generally occurred as soluble rocks such as chalk, limestone and gypsum have been eroded by a sudden infusion of water from the heavy rainstorms which has made existing underground cavities bigger and causing the ground above it to collapse.

A house collapsed in Ripon this week when a sinkhole appeared following the erosion of the underlying gypsum. This followed a particularly large 20ft deep sinkhole in a Hemel Hempstead garden on Saturday which forced the evacuation of about 20 homes.

“There has been a significant increase in sinkholes over the past few weeks and it’s reasonable to suggest that this is related to the increase in rainfall,” said Dr Vanessa Bank, of the British Geological Survey.

“How long this goes on for very much depends on the weather. But there is likely to be more rainfall and my personal opinion is that we are talking about weeks,” she added.

Dr Anthony Cooper, also of the British Geological Survey, said that as the rainfall declined and the land started to dry out a “ second wave” of sinkholes was likely. This is because, as the hole beneath the ground drains out, the covering materials become heavier - at the same time as the increased buoyancy from rising groundwater levels is taken away.

“How long the ‘second wave’ lasts depends on the local geology and how the water is stored, but it will be over the next few months,” Dr Cooper said.

The south east of England – from Norwich down to the coast is particularly susceptible to sinkholes because there is a lot of chalk, while parts of Yorkshire, such as Doncaster and Ripon are more susceptible. The South West, where the underlying rock is less soluble, is less at risk.

Sinkholes are naturally occurring cavities – or holes in the ground – created by the erosion and drainage of water and can be just a few feet across or large enough to swallow whole buildings.

When a hole develops above a manmade cavity, for example where mining has taken place and hasn’t been properly filled, it is known as a dene hole – although these cases are typically lumped in with sink holes. Two of this month’s sinkholes are related to former mines.

Other sinkholes to have opened up this month include a 30ft deep one in a driveway in Walter’s Ash, near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and swallowed up a Volkswagon Lupon.

Last week, a 10-mile stretch of the M2 in Kent had to be closed after a 15ft sinkhole opened up in the central reservation near Sittingbourne.

Although there has been a spate of sinkholes appearing this month, the most famous one appeared in Norwich back in 1988. As the driver of a Number 26 double-decker bus attempted to pull away on the Earlham Road just outside the city centre, a large section of the road surface collapsed beneath the rear wheels following the collapse of the 11th century chalk mine beneath. The passengers managed to scramble out before the vehicle slipped further into the pit and the event hit the headlines around the world.

However, even this sinkhole pales in comparison to some of the sinkholes seen in the US. In 2010, one of the most devastating sinkholes in recent times hit Guatemala City. An area approximately 65ft wide and 100ft deep collapsed, swallowing a three-storey factory and killing 15 people. The sinkhole was caused by a number of factors including an influx of water from Tropical Storm Agatha and leakage from a local sewerage pipe.

Read more:
UK flooding: Dawlish rail line repairs delayed, but business leaders fear worse damage to local economy if companies move away from South West
A mild winter may have caused flooding, but it isn't all bad news: The warm weather has left the UK on course for a record low of cases of flu and respiratory disease

Watch: 25ft sinkhole appears in Hemel Hempstead

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?