Friday, February 23, 2007

Revenge of the giant sinkhole

A giant sinkhole in Guatemala has swallowedseveral houses and a truck since yesterday. Three people are missing, presumed to be among the things swallowed when the houses and truck went under. The sinkhole is 330 feet deep and so I assume that the odds of surviving such a fall, even in a tough pickup are miniscule.

This is one of those dangeers that you don't give a lot of thought to. I have never gone to bed fearing that overnight my house would fall 330 feet into a sinkhole which was not there yesterday. Of course , I don't live in Guatemala. For all I know, giant sinkholes are a constant danger down there. Roaming the country and snatching cars and houses on a regular basis. As always, the governmental department that is responsible for the sinkhole prevention and rescue did not inspire much confidence. Eddie Sanchez , the director of Guatemala's Institute of Seismology,Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology has been closely questioned. That department sounds like it may be spread a little thin. That's a lot of area to cover. It would be four seperate departments in the United States. As we know, it would be five in Canada because they also have a seperate "Ice" department up there.

The sinkhole is a movie of the week in the making. Maria Rivas said she was in her house and she heard booming and felt the earth shaking. Then she saw homes collapse. Quick as a bunny Guatemalan police were on the scene with megaphones urging people to stay in their homes. Sounds to me like at least three heeded those warnings and are probably 330 feet under right now because of them.

1,000 homes were later evacuated and the people taken to shelters and police stations. Sewage smells are coming from the sinkhole, leading people to suspect that the culprit was a leaky sewer pipe.I don't know if sinkholes work like earthquakes are not. I don't know if there is damger of an "afterhole"that would work like an after shock.But if I was a Guatemalan I would not take any chances. Deaths come and go, but it is a bad death that is caused by being swallowed by a 330 foot hole and thrown down to the bottom to land on raw sewage.And because of the inherent instability (and probably the smell) of sink holes, there have been no rescue attempts for those who were swallowed.

How big and deep the sink hole will get is anyone's guess.I don'y know how you fix a sinkhole that big. I see small ones in the street sometimes that get asphalted over, but this one would take a lot of asphalt. I suppose that the thing could grow for months and eventually swallow all of Guatemala, and ultimately, all of Central America.Leaving only a giant hole with the smell of sewage wafting in the sea breezes, growing deeper and deeper and deeper.Ah well, no underground sewage lines around your house I'm sure. Sleep well tonight.

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