The first sign that something was amiss on Fontmell Close, a quiet St Albans street, came five days ago, with residents noting that a man hole cover appeared to be ‘sinking’.
This was followed by a small hole appearing, which the council had plans to fill on Thursday. However at 1am on Thursday morning, residents woke to the crashing sound of a 20 meter wide hole eating through their street and gardens, rupturing a gas main and demolishing brick walls. The chaos led to the emergency evacuation of six homes and has left a further 50 families without gas, water or electricity.
It is believed that the 10 meter deep crater opened due to the road being built on the site of a former rubbish dump from the Victorian era. Historically the clay soil had been excavated to make bricks, and the space filled with the town's waste - in time the waste has degraded and compacted leaving an underground cavity which filled with rainwater. This caused a larger void to open, eventually the structure because sufficiently weak that the 'roof' (the road above!) suddenly collapsed in a very dramatic fashion.
There are plans to carry out full archaeological and geological records before repairs take place, however the council believe that they will have utilities back online within the next couple of days and have the hole filled in as soon as possible.
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