- Authorities found a sinkhole 105 feet wide and 656 feet deep in Copiapó, Chile on Monday.
- Sinkholes can be man-made or natural.
- Here are some sinkholes that have popped up around the world in recent years.
A mysterious sinkhole estimated to be about 105 feet wide and 656 feet deep — about the size of a basketball court and as tall as a nearly 50-story building — surfaced near a mining site in northern Chile on Saturday, according to the National Geological Survey and Mining, a Chilean government agency.
“There is a long distance, approx [656 feet]to the bottom,” David Montenegro, director of the National Geological Survey, told Reuters. “We didn’t detect any material down there, but we did see the presence of a lot of water.”
Researchers are investigating possible causes for the collapse, which joins the ranks of other mysterious sinkholes that have appeared over the years.
Sinkholes can be natural or man-made. They often occur in areas with “karst terrain,” where the rocks below the surface “can be naturally dissolved by the groundwater that circulates through them.” according to the US Geological Survey.
When the water underground slowly dissolves and washes away the rock, eventually the ground collapses often in very dramatic fashion.
In cities, sinkholes can appear after a water main breaks or a pipe breaks. They can also occur in areas where there is plenty of rain, according to National Geographic.
At least in the US, there is no database that tracks the number of sinkholes, according to the USGS. Often, they are not specifically reported when they occur in rural areas.
However, the damage can be extensive, from financial tolls to deaths. Over the past 15 years, the USGS estimates that sinkholes cost the US at least $300 million annually on average. And the cost is likely much higher, the agency reports. It is not clear how many have died from this phenomenon.
Here are some sinkholes that have popped up in recent years.