At least six people have died after a sinkhole opened up on a busy road in the city of Xining in Qinghai Province, China, on Monday 13 January 2020. The sinkhole appeared at about 5.30 pm local time, beneath a bus that was pulling up at a stop by a health clinic, swallowing the vehicle and nearby pedestrians. Several more people were swallowed while trying to rescue those already trapped as the hole continued to grow, and a breaking power line within the hole is reported to have caused an explosion and fire. As well as the six dead a further four people are missing, and sixteen more were injured.
Rescue workers at the scene of a sinkhole that swallowed a bus and several pedestrians in Qinghai Province, China, on Monday 13 January 2020. STR/AFP/Getty Images.
Sinkholes are generally caused by water eroding soft limestone or unconsolidated deposits from beneath, causing a hole that works its way upwards and eventually opening spectacularly at the surface. Where there are unconsolidated deposits at the surface they can infill from the sides, apparently swallowing objects at the surface, including people, without trace.
Typical sinkhole formation processes. Southwest Florida Water Management District.
On this occassion the cause of the sinkhole is still being investigated, though concerns have been raised about the rising number of sinkholes appearing in China's fast growing cities, with some people seeing a link between these events and lax building standards in rapidly developing areas.
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