100m wide and about 60m deep, this gigantic sinkhole reminds of a meteor crater.
Residents of one Ukrainian village are terrified because they think their homes will end up at the bottom of the sinkhole very soon. According to available reports, this sinkhole has already swallowed seven houses.
This problem in Sоlоtvinо village, in the western part of Ukraine, started 220 years ago, when the first salt mines were discovered. When exploitation of these mines ended, mine shafts gradually started collecting water, which caused slow dissolution of underground rock formations.
After that, salt water drained away, leaving enormous underground cave behind. When this kind of cave collapses, thousands of tons of soil sink and create huge sinkhole, like the one in Solotvino village.
Peasants say they have seen five sinkholes so far. The one in the photograph is the biggest. Process of creating these sinkholes is how a karst landscape is formed. Dissolution of soluble rocks, including limestone, dolomite and gypsum, is specific for this kind of process.
Peasant Lеоpоld Uvаrоv, 38, mentioned that chasm showed in the picture showed up in only one day. It is 60m wide and, at least, 45m deep and it is constantly getting bigger.
The first abyss was created 11 years ago. Uvarov claims that everything started with sinking roads and gardens, but soon after that, first houses sank as well. He also points out that the sinkholes are getting closer to the rest of the houses.
The last salt mine in Solotvino was closed in 2007, but that didn’t stop the erosion. At first, locals thought that they were dealing with only one sinkhole and they were convinced the problems would stop. Soon, it became obvious that the whole region is going to disappear.
Uvarov added: “That abyss is not the last one we are going to see. There is going to be more. Mine shafts are still collecting water, salt is dissolving and our land will eventually disappear”.
An expert, Aleksandar Poshtuk, who worked in local administration and who closed all those mines, suggested a solution. He thought that the problem would be resolved by filling the tunnels with soil. Locals disagree, they claim the solution is a waste of time and money because it would require 10 million pounds and it would take at least seven years.
This village could disappear at any moment – that is reality. Local officials say that certain number of families have already moved out, but there are still 130 families in the village. They refuse to leave their patrimony and they claim that the new settlement is built in the region with contaminated water.