Man cheats death after 70ft sinkhole swallows his garden

Dramatic pictures shows how the 15ft-wide hole swallowed up Harri Chadha’s front garden outside his home in Halesowen, West Midlands

Sophie Watson
Monday 02 January 2023 10:41 GMT
(Harri Chadha / SWNS)

A terrified father has told how he cheated death by “three seconds” after a 70ft-deep sinkhole appeared outside his front door.

Harri Chadha lept in fright when a giant cavern suddenly opened up where he had been standing just moments earlier.

Dramatic pictures shows how the 15ft-wide hole swallowed up Harri’s garden path and front garden outside his home in Halesowen, West Midlands.

The fashion photographer said: “I must have done something good somewhere because I really should be dead.

“I had just been standing on the path after closing my front door moments before the earth collapsed in on itself.

“Literally three to five seconds earlier and I would have been a goner for certain.”

He continued: “The sinkhole was 70ft deep, I don’t think they would have ever found my body.

“What scared me was the gas gushing out of the hole, but initially I was still told it was OK to stay there that night.”

Harri moved into his leasehold property 13 years ago and is now in temporary rented accommodation after being told it could “take months” to make his home safe.

He added: “I’ve had to move into a rented property because my son told me this is going to take months to sort out.

“I have not even been allowed to go back and collect any essentials, the flat had to be broken into to save our cat, I never thought I’d see it again.

“The other residents have been so kind to me, far more than the management company have been. They haven’t even asked me how I’m doing.”

(Harri Chadha / SWNS)

The sinkhole is thought to have been caused by underground sewage pipes collapsing as a result of building work being done above ground.

Gas pipes were smashed in the collapse, leading firefighters to order an immediate evacuation.

He and seven other residents were ordered out of their homes after the sinkhole emerged at Haden Arch Court on November 20.

Severn Trent Water blame the sinkhole on building work being carried out without planning permission.

Eight residents have not been allowed back to their properties, which are managed by Remus, since the sinkhole appeared on November 20.

The hole is being filled in with another hole dug to collect water which is being pumped into a nearby river.

(Harri Chadha / SWNS)

Meanwhile gas and water companies are desperately trying to make the area safe to allow people back in their homes.

Another resident, who only gave his name as Geoff, said: “I’ve been forced to sleep on a friend’s sofa for more than a month.

“It’s a nightmare because I wasn’t even allowed back home to pick up any of my things.

“I don’t think the place will ever be safe and I just worry about my home being swallowed up.

“There’s no chance of ever being able to sell the place either.”

Residents were initially allowed to stay in their homes after the sinkhole first emerged on November 20.

The next day West Midlands Fire Service and gas officials inspected the site and ordered an immediate evacuation.

Since the collapse, eight families have been given financial assistance by Severn Trent – who have not accepted liability - with four still being supported.

A spokesman for Severn Trent said: “The sinkhole has appeared due to a damaged sewer pipe, which was built over without the correct build over agreement, meaning the foundations of the building are very close to the pipe.

“This means it will be a complicated and complex repair with access issues, and will take time to complete.

“Severn Trent has stepped in to support the residents of Haden Arch since the end of November.

“Despite Severn Trent not being at fault, and as a gesture of goodwill, we have provided alternative accommodation for some of the residents, as this is clearly a distressing time for everyone, especially over the holidays.”

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