Homes evacuated as sinkhole opens

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Three houses have been evacuated amid fears they could collapse after a huge 25 ft wide sinkhole opened up in a street.

Police cleared the properties on Magdalen's Close in Ripon, North Yorkshire, at 5.40pm after receiving reports the huge sinkhole had appeared.

A North Yorkshire police spokesman said: "The affected property and two houses nearby have been evacuated and a cordon has been put in place to protect members of the public. At this stage no injuries have been reported."

Officers were carrying out house-to-house checks in the area to warn people close to the affected properties.

Police, fire crews and the ambulance service remained at the scene with utility services' engineers and structural engineers who were assisting with the incident.

The sinkhole is the latest in a spate to appear after a 35ft wide and 20ft deep one also appeared on Saturday morning under homes in a quiet cul-de-sac in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

Last week a stretch of the M2 in north Kent was closed after a 15ft-deep hole was discovered in the central reservation and on February 2, a teenager's car was swallowed after a 30ft-deep crater appeared on a family's driveway in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

North Yorkshire fire and rescue service said that a fire engine and a heavy rescue unit from Ripon were at the scene, where cracks had appeared in the ground, damaging to a building.

A spokeswoman said: "There are no occupiers in the property and a dog has been successfully rescued. Residents from adjacent properties have been evacuated as a precaution.

"The crews have cordoned off the area and are awaiting the arrival of specialist engineers."

The spokeswoman said the sinkhole was about 25 feet wide.

A Yorkshire Ambulance Service spokeswoman said an ambulance was sent to the scene but it was stood down after 20 minutes when it was realised there were no casualties.

Local resident Barry Dyason, 34, an office worker, said: "Most of the people from the emergency services seem to have gone now, it's mainly people from the utility companies who are still there.

"You can't see the sinkhole because it's between a house and two cottages - it's one of the cottages which was damaged.

"This area is quite well known for gypsum deposits, and there have been properties affected by subsidence - but not sinkholes, that I've heard of.

"There's been some rain around here, but nothing like the floods seen in other parts of the country.

"It's alarming, you see these things reported on television but don't expect it to happen so close to you. Hopefully lightning wouldn't strike twice in such a small area."

The British Geological Survey has said that the most susceptible area in the UK for sinkholes is the Permian gypsum deposits of north-east England, particularly around Ripon.

It says large sinkholes have developed around Ripon, some of which have affected property and infrastructure. This is because gypsum is far more soluble than limestone, and thus dissolves more rapidly.

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