Imagine being told that you only have 15 minutes to pack a bag and leave your family home. That’s the reality residents of Ripon, North Yorkshire, faced back in 2016 when a sinkhole opened up and swallowed their garages, outhouses and even their garden plants. All in all, 10 houses were evacuated and it took 46 months to rebuild their gardens – and their lives.
That was just one of the many cases explored in the new 3-part TV documentary series “Sinkholes”, which aired this week on Channel 5, revealing the true extent of sinkhole devastation. Additional cases included yet another sinkhole (35ft deep!) in Ripon that had split a house in two, as well as a housing estate in Hemel Hempstead that had been evacuated when a sinkhole not only damaged houses and roads, but damaged pipes and threated a gas leak explosion!
While these incidents are barely comprehendible, they are superseded by the devastation routinely experienced in Florida, where sinkholes have been known to swallow entire houses in less than 30 minutes – and even cost lives.
The ground is simply dissolving beneath these homes
So what is causing all of these problems? Although thousands of miles apart, Florida and Ripon have one thing in common : The ground beneath their homes is made of a substance that dissolves in acid rain. For Florida, this is Limestone. For Ripon, Gypsum.
Over time, water trickles underground, dissolving the rock and creating caverns. When the weight above them gets too much, the ground collapses into the void creating holes on the surface that take anything and everything down with them.
The fear of the unknown is what’s really keeping people awake at night
While these cases certainly make for scary reading, the fear of the unknown is even harder to live with – especially for residents of Ripon and Florida who know it is a question of ‘where’ and not ‘if’ another sinkhole will open up in their neighbourhood.
Fortunately, The British Geological Survey are working extensively in areas such as Ripon to map a true picture of the land beneath the ground. Similar bodies in America are making good use of technology and data too, to help ensure that new houses won’t be built in areas of high risk.
Terrafirma have also released new interactive mapping tools to make it easier for the general public and their conveyancers to see the full extent of the risks beneath their door steps – simply by adding in their postcode.
You can try it here:
Find out more about sinkholes
To try Terrafirma’s full range of interactive tools and find out what’s going on beneath your doorstep, please visit : https://www.terrafirmasearch.co.uk/understand-the-ground/
You can also tune into the rest of the Channel 5 “Sinkholes” series on Mondays at 8pm : http://www.radiotimes.com/tv-programme/e/fzn9yf/sinkholes-buried-underground–s1-e1-sinkholes-buried-underground/