A giant sinkhole in the heart of a busy Japanese city has sucked in traffic lights and is threatening to collapse surrounding buildings.
The gaping chasm, which is around 30 metres wide, has appeared outside Hakata Station in the city of Fukuoka, on southern Kyushu island.
TV footage showed two separate holes steadily expanding across the five-lane road shortly after 5am local time.
A young man, who saw the sinkhole expand, told public broadcaster NHK: “It was a bit dark outside, and my first impression was, ‘Is the road really falling?’
“When I saw it, two holes were already there, and they continued to grow bigger.
“I got scared the most when a traffic light fell at an intersection close to where I was standing. I felt, ‘I have to get out of here’.”
By afternoon the hole was around 15 metres deep and was filling with water from broken pipes.
Police, who cordoned off the area and evacuated buildings, said there were no reports of any injuries.
Fukuoka’s mayor Soichiro Takashima and transport bureau said ongoing extension work to a nearby subway line might have triggered the crater.
Mr Takashima told a press conference: “We believe the subway construction had some impact.
“A thorough investigation will be carried out.”
The city’s railway station is a major intersection, including for the high-speed bullet trains that criss-cross the country.
At least 170 households reportedly lost power.
A 15m-wide sinkhole appeared in an Australian couple’s back yard in August and a huge sinkhole triggered radioactive leaks in Florida.
Sinkholes are often formed when too much acidic water and other materials seep into the pores and cracks that can emerge in the stone.
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