A crater measuring some 40 by 15 metres opened up early on Monday morning in Schmalkalden, Thuringia, sucking a nearby car and part of a garage into its depths and forcing authorities to evacuate residents.
But the danger of sinkholes is even greater in Saxony-Anhalt, which has a history of mining and many underground cave formations, daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung wrote.
The state’s mining authorities have registered a surge in sinkholes, which it attributes to heavy rainfall in recent weeks, the paper said.
The rain “runs into cavities near the ground’s surface that then collapse,” said Bodo-Carlo Ehling, the spokesperson for the Bergamt.
In a normal year the mining authority logs about 50 sinkholes, but in 2010 there have already been 120 in the state. Areas near former brown coal mines are particularly susceptible to sinkholes, the paper said, explaining that these often have erratic and unmapped caverns.
Meanwhile security measures can often only be begun after a hole has already appeared, the paper said.
“Large parts of Saxony-Anhalt are endangered, but an exact prediction of where a sinkhole will occur is not possible,” geologist Ehling said, adding that construction activity in the region should be undertaken with extreme caution.
“It is never wrong to look under the rug when building homes,” he said.
In April 2010 a massive section of earth abruptly collapsed outside Bernburg, Saxony-Anhalt, leaving a 40 metre-deep crater.
And in July 2009, three people were killed when their house collapsed into a lake in the Saxony–Anhalt town of Nachterstedt. The area near the town was extensively mined for lignite, or brown coal, during the 19th century, meaning the ground was shot through with hundreds of tunnels.