Man's house falls into old mine shaft

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The Independent Online
A PENSIONER looked on helplessly as his home of more than 50 years collapsed into a 20ft hole. Samuel Hodson, a retired lorry driver, got out of the house just 10 minutes before it disappeared into a disused mine shaft.

He first noticed something was wrong when he woke at 7am on Sunday and heard creaking noises. Large cracks appeared in the bedroom walls of the semi-detached council house in Walsall, West Midlands, where he has lived for 52 years. All day bricks and mortar fell off, until at 4pm the whole structure sank into the ground.

The house was on the site of a mine abandoned in 1850.

Mr Hodson, 64, who was left with nothing more than the clothes he was wearing at the time, said: "I'm absolutely devastated. I've lost everything.

"I woke up to what sounded like thunder. Then I realised the noise was the creaking of the house. I began to notice cracks appearing in the walls so I called my son, who rang the emergency council number."

At 11.30am council workers arrived. They called a technician. "As the day went on it got worse. There was creaking and rumbling all day. Then larger cracks appeared and everybody cleared out of the house.

"Only 10 minutes after leaving the house it collapsed and disappeared."

His son, Scott, 33, a self-employed builder who lives nearby, said: "I came to have a look and there were cracks everywhere. They didn't think it was going to collapse, so we didn't even bother to remove any of my dad's possessions.

"He was lucky to escape. If the house had given way during the night, he would have sunk with it."

Next-door-neighbour Sam Tinsley, 66, said: "Sam called me to have a look at the cracks. The pictures on the wall were dipping to one side, his back door would not close and there was general subsidence."

Three other houses were evacuated. His neighbour Mary Wilcox, 64, said: "You could hear the creaking and rumbling of the house. It sounded like thunder."

Sharon Whitelaw, 25, said: "I was pottering in the kitchen when all of a sudden I saw the house opposite literally disappear into the ground. I thought it had been struck by an earthquake or something."

Mr Hodson's wife, Joan, died three years ago. Scott said his father was most distraught at the loss of his wedding album.

"We've told the council where the album is and we hope they'll be able to recover it."

Mr Hodson was staying with his sister-in-law while the council tried to rehouse him.