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9 of This Year's Most Alarming Sinkholes

While sinkholes can be explained by science (erosion, mining, and water main breaks are the typical culprits), unanticipated appearances sometimes lead witnesses to interpret them as an act of God, or even proof of End Times.

And why not? These giant holes can wreck vehicles and buildings with shocking speed. In February, a sinkhole swallowed a suburban Tampa home and the 36-year-old man in its bedroom. His body was never recovered. Six months later, a 60-foot-wide sinkhole formed underneath a central Florida resort. Possessions were lost, but the guests evacuated in time. "I've always said it's a given that when you move to Florida you get beaches, sunshine, hurricanes and sinkholes," a Florida Geological Survey scientist, told the Guardian earlier this year.

The latest addition to this list is in Xi'an, China, and it was caused by an aging water pipe explosion beneath a local road. In that same city, a local truck driver escaped unharmed along another street after a sinkhole swallowed his rig from behind earlier this year.  Incredibly, no fatalities or significant injuries occurred in either instance. 

 Below, Reuters offers a few of the most terrifying examples from 2013:

People look at a large sinkhole on a street after a water pipe broke underneath it in Xi'an, Shaanxi province October 27, 2013. According to local media, the pipe was damaged due to aging and no casualty was reported in the incident. (REUTERS/Stringer) 


A section of the Summer Bay Resort lies collapsed after a large sinkhole opened on the property's grounds in Clermont, Florida August 12, 2013. Dozens of guests at the Florida resort near Walt Disney World were evacuated early Monday, when at least two buildings partially collapsed due to the sinkhole, guests and resort employees said. (REUTERS/David Manning) 


A construction vehicle lies where it was swallowed by a sinkhole on Saint-Catherine Street in downtown Montreal, August 5, 2013. (REUTERS/Christinne Muschi)


People look at a tanker after it fell into a caved-in area on a road in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, July 27, 2013. No casualty was reported in the accident, according to local media. (REUTERS/Stringer)


Pamela Knox waits for rescue after a massive sinkhole opened up underneath her car in Toledo, Ohio in this July 3, 2013. Toledo firefighters later rescued Knox without major injuries. Fire officials told a local TV station that a water main break caused the large hole. (REUTERS/Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld/Toledo Fire and Rescue)


A rescue team works under a caved-in area on a road in Loudi, Hunan province, June 18, 2013. The road surface sank after a truck drove past. A motorcyclist riding behind the truck was injured, according to local reports. (REUTERS/China Daily)


Workers look into a sinkhole caused by a broken water main in Chicago, Illinois, April 18, 2013. Heavy rains and flooding brought havoc to the Chicago area on Thursday, shutting major expressways, delaying commuter trains for hours, canceling flights, flooding basements and closing dozens of suburban schools. On the city's South Side, a sinkhole opened up on a residential street, swallowing three cars, according to Officer Mike Sullivan of the Chicago Police Department. One person was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. (REUTERS/Jim Young)


People stand next to a 82 foot diameter pit at a village in Guangyuan, Sichuan province, February 28, 2013. According to local media the pit formed on a karst landform last year after the ground surface kept sinking for six days in September. The investigators said the pit may face further sinking after rains due to its geological conditions. (REUTERS/Stringer) 


People stand by a recent caved-in area on a paddy field in Fukou county, Hunan province, January 12, 2013. More than 20 pits formed from the sunken ground surface in Fukou county during the past four months. According to the local media, the government's initial investigation showed years of mining destroyed the local underground water systems and led to the numerous cave-ins. (REUTERS/China Daily)

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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