Sinkhole swallows cars in wake of devastating flooding in Massachusetts

Sinkholes are becoming more common as the climate crisis drives global temperatures higher

Graig Graziosi
Wednesday 13 September 2023 21:41 BST

Cars fall into a sinkhole that opened up in Massachusetts after heavy rains

A trio of cars were left dangling on the edges of a sinkhole outside a dealership in Massachusetts, according to local reports.

The sinkhole opened up in Leominster, Massachusetts after heavy rains — which triggered a flash flood warning — destabilised the ground, opening up a 15-foot deep chasm, according to WCVB.

Public works crews were out on Wednesday working to repair the damage caused by the sinkhole.

Crews expressed concerns that the flood and subsequent sinkhole might have weakened the foundation of a home near the affected area. The couple living in the house were forced to leave on Monday night.

Andrew Obin said his parents — Arthur and Joanne, who live at the house — were warned by their neighbour that the area was collapsing just before their front yard was pulled into the hole.

"He let them know it was time to go and they got out just in time," Mr Obin told the outlet. "Basically, we're just lucky it didn't happen overnight while they were sleeping."

Water running beneath a nearby street acts as a culver for a pond in nearby Barrett Park, according to residents. The park flooded due to heavy rains, and its dam was destabilised.

Another resident, Sharon Testa, said she had lived in the area for six years and had "never seen anything like this."

A trio of cars caught on the edge of a sinkhole that opened up in Leominster, Massachusetts after heavy rains

She noted that the area was not a flood zone and was concerned that insurance companies would not cover the damages.

Mr Obin shared the same fear, and started a GoFundMe page for his parents to assist them in the event their insurance companies refused to help.

He said he assumed his parents' home would be condemned.

The city's mayor, Dean Mazzarella, said the city would likely take a week to re-open the affected street to traffic.

Public works officials examine the damage to a road and front yard that was washed away by recent flooding, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Leominster, Mass.

In addition to the damage to surrounding properties and businesses, the flooding also revealed gas mains. National Grid crews were dispatched to inspect and secure the mains ahead of the state's Department of Public Works efforts to repair the roadway.

Sinkholes are often triggered by heavy rain or surface flooding, according to the British Geological Survey, and as a result are likely to become more prevalent as the climate crisis driven by the burning of fossil fuels worsens.

A study conducted by the European Geosciences Union journal, Natural Hazards and Earth System Science found that for every 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0.1C) rise in global temperature, the number of sinkholes increased between 1 and 3 per cent.

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