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Massive Sinkhole Might Swallow Up Russian Mining Town

On November 18, giant sinkhole measuring 100 ft across was discovered about two miles away from a mine in Russia’s Perm region. The gaping chasm is believed to have already swallowed up several homes and locals in Solikamsk now fear that the same could happen to their whole town.

The hole is believed to have appeared after the nearby Solikamsk-2 mine was flooded. Luckily, workers were evacuated and operations were halted before the appearance of the chasm, because of the inflow of saline water. Thousands of miners have now been asked to stay away as geologists assess the situation.

Uralkali, the company that owns the Solikamsk-2, is assuring people that there will be no catastrophic effects for the company or for the locals. Regional authorities agree that the hole could get bigger, but it would still be of no danger to the people. But that hasn’t stopped the crazy rumors – locals claim to have spotted missiles and even falling angels near the sinkhole.

What’s causing concern among the people of the region is that Solikamsk-2 is connected to another mine, Solikamsk-1, through underground tunnels. Although these tunnels are walled up, they fear that it’s only a matter of time before the water breaks through and floods the entire region. The town of Solikamsk is located almost entirely above the Solikamsk-1 mine, putting people at great risk of getting swallowed up entirely.

But the town’s Mayor Sergey Devyatkov insisted that these fears are exaggerated. “There is no need to talk about the first mine now,” he said in a TV interview. “All is good there.” He also added that the situation is being monitored at all times, and that there is plenty of time for observation.

“Various possible impacts of the brine on connections (between the two mines) are being studied now, not to let the flooding of the first mine happen,” he said. “I think the first decision will be made in two weeks, but even if no action on fortification of walled-up tunnels is taken, scientists predict they could stay strong for another 15 years.”

This actually isn’t the first time such a phenomenon has occurred. Uralkali’s facilities in the area have previously been affected by similar incidents. Their oldest mine was shut down in 2006 due to water inflow, which also caused a sinkhole to form in the town of Berezniki. In 2011, Berezniki had to deal with another 450 foot-wide sinkhole less than a mile away from a residential area.

The appearance of this latest sinkhole has caused mass panic in the town of Solikamsk, although none of the residents were injured. Many are reported to be rushing to sell their homes. “People have not slept for three days, waiting for new holes,” said one resident.

“The homes were empty when it happened, which was lucky,” added another. “The nearest houses where people are living were two kilometers away.” Meanwhile, the future of the mine – which has reserves of about 150 million tons of potash – is unclear. A theory suggests that and earthquake that happened 20 years ago might have weakened the bedrock surrounding the mine. Unfortunately, if the rock proves to be too unstable, the mine could be lost forever.

Photos via Weird Russia

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