There are those pictures of the aftermath of natural disasters that give us pause and remind us of the many natural dangers that exist throughout the world. Then there are pictures that cause one to do more than just pause. They STOP you! This picture of a sinkhole in Guatemala City did the latter to me. I was just held spellbound and in awe.
I have seen pictures of sinkholes before, but I had never seen anything this ominous. This sinkhole came in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Agatha that ripped through Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador over the weekend dropping more than 3 feet of rain and killing at least 180 people. The sinkhole dropped a three story building and a house into the abyss. Apparently a security guard was assumed dead in the fall. It is unclear if others perished as well. The Guatemala sinkhole is approximately 60 feet wide and 30 stories deep and is expected to continue to grow.
Such sinkholes are "relatively common" in Guatemala as much of the country sits on top of a network of limestone caverns. it seems strange to call anything as vast as this sinkhole "common". However, water over time can wash away the fragile limestone and the surface can then suddenly give way.
This image of a sinkhole in Florida makes it clear that many areas in the United States are also at risk for sinkholes. In the United States sinkholes have caused the greatest amount of damage in Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Tennessee. Other states such as Michigan also experience them.
Though sinkholes can be caused by totally natural forces, they also are often the result of breaks in water or sewer pipes that then erode the surface soil. Such was the case with this sinkhole in Portland, OR.
There is suspicion that the Guatemala City sinkhole may have been caused, at least in part, by a broken sewer line. The seepage from the sewer line may have saturated the ground prior to the heavy rains that caused the final collapse.
Such natural occurrences remind us of the need to be prepared for emergencies and disasters no matter where we live.
Sinkhole incidents specifically are a reminder of how quickly we may have to evacuate our homes or places of business. Having an emergency kit at hand that includes copies of important documents and information may lessen the personal impact of such a disaster.
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