Sinkhole filled, but residents not allowed to return
One week after an enormous sinkhole opened up in the Thuringia community of Schmalkalden, authorities said Monday that the hole had been filled, but the area remained too unstable for residents to return.
The sinkhole appeared suddenly last week, sucking a nearby car and part of a garage into its depths and forcing authorities to evacuate residents.
Mayor Thomas Kaminski told broadcaster ARD that the sinkhole had been filled following several days of work, though efforts were not yet complete.
Another 6,000 tonnes of gravel will be poured over site to form a dome that will eventually settle as the ground continues to shift, he said.
Meanwhile the 17 residents evacuated from around the sinkhole still won’t be able to return to their homes for another six weeks, Kaminski said. They have been put up in temporary apartments.
Over the weekend Thuringia state premier Christine Lieberknecht visited the site and promised aid to those affected by the disaster. Residents are likely to receive a sum of about €10,000, she said, while the state also plans to create a disaster fund to aid those affected by similar incidents in the future, she said.
The crater measured some 40 by 15 metres, and was believed to be about 20 metres deep before it was filled.
No-one was injured in the incident.
According to head of the Thuringia mining authority, Hartmut Kießling, the sinkhole happened naturally.
Jan Katzschmann, an official from the state geology service, said that a large underground cavity had likely collapsed.
Germany regularly experiences ground shifts resulting from old mines.
A similar event occurred in April 2010 in the neighbouring state of Saxony-Anhalt when a massive section of earth abruptly collapsed outside Bernburg, leaving a 40 metre-deep crater.
In January 2010 two homes in the town of Tiefenort in Thuringia were evacuated after a landslide opened up a two-metre crater nearby. That town is located near the site of a former calcium salt mine, and there was another landslide about eight years ago in the same area that was filled with concrete.
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.