Sinkhole in Montreal Swallows Backhoe, Slows Morning Rush

Tuesday, 06 Aug 2013 10:52 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A sinkhole opened up in Montreal Monday morning partially swallowing up a backhoe while shutting down traffic near a busy intersection during rush hour.

The hole, which measured about 26 feet long and 16 feet wide, opened up at approximately 9 a.m. local time when a construction crew was working on a suspected sewage pipe leak, Ville-Marie Borough spokeswoman Emilie Miskdjian told the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC).

No one was injured as a result of the sinkhole, which is situated almost directly across from the famous Faubourg Sainte-Catherine, a well-known tourist attraction In Quebec's largest city.

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Though it is unclear what caused the road to give way, local officials believe the water leak could have played a role.

"We think that the water leak was because of the sewer pipe. . . It's a broken sewer pipe," Miskdjian told CBC News. "That's what we think, but we will have to do an inspection to determine the cause."

Local business owner, Rahman Esmaili, who owns the Sharx pool hall in the Faubourg Sainte-Catherine, says he informed city officials about a sewage problem more than a week ago, but claimed that nothing was done until Monday morning.

"It was pouring in the wall and coming down in the whole street and it smells and all this nonsense — you cannot imagine," Esmaili told CBC News.

Claiming to have suffered significant damage to his business, Esmaili added that in his multiple conversations with the city, officials told him that nothing was wrong with the pipes.

"My insurance were working very hard to figure out a way to stop this water because its damaging us every day — costing me my operation so far," Esmaili said. "For a whole week, we didn't have any business down there."

City Councillor Richard Deschamps attributed the hole to infrastructure issues, telling CBC News that the workers on the site were properly performing their job.

"We can't secure every corner that we have in the city," Deschamps added.

The backhoe is still in the process of being removed, after which time city officials will be able to determine how extensive the damage is to the street and what repair work needs to be done.

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Sinkholes are generally caused by erosion, specifically the gradual removal of slightly soluble bedrock by water.

In the U.S., sinkholes are quite common in Florida due to the state's porous geological bedrock, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. As rainwater filters down into the ground, it dissolves the rock, causing erosion that can lead to underground caverns, which cause sinkholes when they collapse, Reuters notes.

Related stories:

Kansas Sinkhole Devours Pasture, Becomes Tourist Attraction

Massive Sinkhole in Louisiana Covers 12 Acres, Displaces 350 Residents

No Sign of Florida Man Swallowed by Sinkhole

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