Sinkholes Around the World: Recent Deaths, Causes and Prevention

Updated on December 8, 2018
Sinkhole in parking lot near Georgia Tech, Atlanta
Sinkhole in parking lot near Georgia Tech, Atlanta | Source

The recent death of Jeff Bush in a Florida sinkhole has highlighted the dangers of these natural phenomena. Although sinkholes cause an average of 17 insurance claims a day in Florida alone, deaths are rare.

Recent Sinkhole Deaths in the United States

  • September 17, 2013

A Missouri hunter went into the woods near his house to retrieve a deer he had killed earlier during the day. After he never returned home, authorities were notified. His body was found at the bottom of a 70 foot sinkhole. The sinkhole opened up a few days earlier due to heavy rains in the area.

  • September 10, 2013

Flooding in Thessalon Canada opened up a roadway sinkhole. A motorcyclist, traveling the highway in the a storm hit the sink hole, falling from his bike into the sinkhole and subsequently dying.

  • February 28, 2013

Around 11 PM, Jeff Bush was asleep in his bedroom when a large sinkhole opened up directly under the house, swallowing him and his entire bedroom. His brother heard him but was unable to see him or reach him. Authorities were forced to abandon the search for Bush several days later. The house was razed and used to fill in the remaining sinkhole area. Bush’s body was not recovered.

  • July 14 2012

Thirty-two year old Sonia Lopez was driving down the road in Boise Idaho when her car hit a sinkhole that had suddenly appeared in the road. After investigation, authorities decided that the hole was formed when gopher tunnels filled with irrigation water from nearby farms. The combination of the two elements caused the road to become unstable and suddenly collapse. Lopez died from her injuries.

States With the Most Sinkholes

  • Alabama
  • Florida,
  • Kentucky
  • Missouri
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Texas

  • July 14, 2011

A 15 year old Utah teenager was killed when a sinkhole suddenly opened up in the road. The sinkhole, caused from excessive rain, caused her father to careen off of the road. Another car actually drove into the sinkhole but the driver survived the incident.

Recent Sinkhole Deaths Around The World

  • April 22, 2014

Three people died in north China, in Inner Mongolia after their house collapsed in a 150 foot sinkhole. Locals suspect that the sinkhole was caused by mining activity in the area.

  • October 27, 2013

A family sleeping in their home in a province in Manilla were killed when a sinkhole suddenly engulfed the house. Two family members were rescued and four died.

  • August 2, 2012

A Taiwanese man falls to his death after a massive sinkhole opened up where he was walking. The sinkhole was the result of massive rains that swept through the area from Typhoon Saola. Surveillance cameras captured the horrific moment.

  • May 11, 2012

A family of four in Canada died when a sinkhole swallowed their entire home. Only the family dog survived the incident. The sinkhole was likely caused by a liquidizing of the clay dirt where the home was built.

  • February 2007

Guatemala City residents were shocked to find a 30 story sinkhole suddenly appear. Two people died in the incident. The hole was caused by sewage and water eroding the bedrock underneath the ground.

Famous sinkhole in Florida: Devi's Millhopper Geological Park
Famous sinkhole in Florida: Devi's Millhopper Geological Park | Source

What Causes Sinkholes?

According to USGS, sinkholes are often the results of water events such as floods or hurricanes. The water enters the ground and begins to dissolve the rock underneath, leaving air pockets that will eventually collapse. Rocks that can be dissolved by water include “salt beds and domes, gypsum, and limestone and other carbonate rock.”

Underground caves, either man made or natural, can also collapse because of water activity, pressure and erosion.

Sinkholes can also be caused by human activity such as mining, well digging and even the draining of water tables in periods of drought.

Can Anything Be Done?

The best defense, according to authorities is to look around for tell-tale signs of formation. Signs of sinkholes include: “sagging trees or fence posts, doors or windows that no longer close properly, and rainwater collecting

Some sinkholes can be filled in and the damage contained.

To prevent sinkholes in areas that are prone to them, insure that your home and property has good drainage.

Deaths Are Rare

Anthony Randazzo, a former University of Florida professor, points out that deaths from sinkholes are thankfully rare. Randazzo notes that they usually don’t appear suddenly and that paying attention to warning signs will help keep you and your family safe.

Will Climate Change Bring More Sinkholes?

Deadly sinkholes often make the news because they are rare, scary and seem unpredictable. While sinkholes have always been a natural occurrence, modern society and urban sprawl has made us much more aware of them.

As the world becomes more populated, people live in more and more areas susceptible to them.

Changing weather events associated with climate change such as floods and hurricanes may mean that we will see an increase in these over the next few years as water continues to move and change the land.

Do sinkholes worry you?

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Questions & Answers

  • I live in Kentucky. Can you tell me which part of the state is more prone to sinkholes?

    I know that the eastern part has more limestone. That can erode over time and cause sinkholes. I'm not sure about the western half of the state.

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    • KDeus profile image

      Keely Deuschle 

      4 years ago from Florida

      This is a very interesting article. I, like you, live in Florida and have good friends that live in Seffner where the one that killed Jeff Bush happened. Ever since then, it has certainly heightened my awareness. Hearing a few more open up there is quite scary. On a smaller scale, we see them more often from broken water mains that may collapse a road. Thank you for including the things to look for, as that should certainly help people to look for warning signs that there may be something to be concerned with.

    • LCDWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      L C David 

      5 years ago from Florida

      Thanks moonlake. It does seem to be a problem that many parts of the world are facing. It is worrisome because just like earthquakes there is very little time to prepare--or even no time. It's disheartening every time I read about another life claimed by these sinkholes.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 

      5 years ago from America

      Interesting hub I didn't know even that many had died from sink holes all across the country. Voted up.

    • LCDWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      L C David 

      5 years ago from Florida

      Thanks grand old lady. Living in Florida, I hear nearly every week of sinkholes and sinkhole damage, especially in the central part of the state. As our water sources are depleted, it may get worse since the underground hollows where the Florida aquifers are may collapse. It seems that there isn't much to do but watch and wait but as you pointed out and I pointed out in the article, there are ways to notice if the earth is changing around you. Hope all your family came through the typhoon okay and are not having to deal with too much clean up and aftermath. Thank you for stopping by.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      5 years ago from Philippines

      I first learned about sinkholes when the story of the Florida man who was in his bedroom fell in. It was very sad and also scary. This article does a good job in explaining sinkholes, what causes them and signs to look for that may indicate the presence of sinkholes. The weather is so crazy these days. The video was also good in showing how sudden and unexpectedly a sinkhole can occur. Thank you for this article:). I will share it in my family tree FB page, since many of them are from Cebu and the areas that were hit by the typhoon Haiyan.

    • LCDWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      L C David 

      5 years ago from Florida

      I know. It really does seem like they are random (and maybe some of them kind of are).

      I'm glad deaths are rare but it is sad that they still happen.

    • jimmyglaughlin profile image

      Jim Laughlin 

      5 years ago from Connecticut

      Wow! Crazy stuff, great Hub!

    • LCDWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      L C David 

      5 years ago from Florida

      Yes, the one in Florida piqued my interest as well. I think the scary part about them is just how random they really are. The footage of the Taiwanese man falling into the sinkhole is horrifying to me!

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Glenn Stok.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I became interested in learning more about sinkholes due to the recent one in Florida. You hub was very informative. You gave the information I was looking for -- basically States that have sinkholes, and some known causes.

      We take our planet for granted. The earth is very volatile. Even though some sinkholes are caused by human intervention, it can happen due to natural causes too, as you had shown with the examples.

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