A sinkhole in Guangzhou has eaten six shops, a sidewalk and several trees.

When preparing for a trip to China, it might be useful to memorize a few basic Chinese phrases. You know, like "Thank you," "Where is the bathroom?" and "Please call the authorities, I am trapped in a sinkhole."

The last time this site checked in on China's sinkhole woes, in early 2012, it was for a rash of small but spiteful pits that were dragging pedestrians beneath the sidewalks. Since then, there's been many a hole to violently rip the earth apart throughout the country – a chasm that spurred an 800-person evacuation in Guangxi Province, a 33-foot-deep crevice that ate four people in Harbin, a sudden perforation in the road that swallowed a whole bus. Caixin Online reports that an astounding 99 sinkholes popped up around Beijing last summer, all in the course of about three weeks.

And now there's another tremendous one, in Guangzhou, a major city of about 13 million people in southeast China. The chain reaction of collapses kicked off Monday afternoon near a construction site in the Liwan district, where workers nervously noticed the ground around them easing downward. They managed to evacuate the site before the pavement abruptly plummeted into a black void, releasing showers of electrical sparks and geysers of water from broken pipes.

A couple hours and additional cave-ins later, the yawning orifice had fed itself with a few large trees, a hunk of sidewalk and several unoccupied buildings, reports Shanghaiist. The hole was working on building No. 6, which it had torn in half, when a construction crew plugged up its gullet with a river of concrete. Nobody was injured.

While the authorities are looking into the cause of the major cavity, which reached depths of 30 feet, it may have had something to do with a nearby subway-tunnel project. Indeed, many of China's urban sinkholes can be traced to energetic and sometimes haphazard construction work in rapidly developing cities. Holes aren't the only perilous side effect of this aggressive push toward urbanization, either. According to the Daily Mail:

Six major bridges have collapsed across the country since July last year.

In September, 19 construction workers in the centre of the country were killed after a lift plummeted 30 floors, while a man walking through a building site in the east narrowly escaped death when a metal bar went through his head.

A month earlier, an explosion in a Chinese coal mine killed 26 miners and left others trapped in the carbon monoxide-filled pit for a day.

Mainland China's wondrous holes have spread to Taiwan, too. Look at this TV reporter covering a sidewalk collapse get the bejeesus scared out of her by yet another sidewalk collapses:

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Maps

    Where Commuting Is Out of Control

    Lack of affordable housing and sub-par mass transit are boosting the ranks of “super commuters” in some regions outside of pricey metros.

  2. A heavy layer of smog over Paris
    Environment

    How Much Are You 'Smoking' by Breathing Urban Air?

    A new app can tell you (and it’s not pretty).  

  3. Transportation

    Why New York City Stopped Building Subways

    Nearly 80 years ago, a construction standstill derailed the subway’s progress, leading to its present crisis. This is the story, decade by decade.

  4. Design

    Lessons From Europe's Densest Neighborhoods

    Examine the densest areas in each country and you’ll find some striking trends: Many were built in the same era for the same reasons, but their current popularity is a far cry from where they began.

  5. New housing under construction in San Marcos, California.
    POV

    Where the YIMBYs Can Win

    The defeat of SB 827, California’s ambitious pro-housing bill, masks a wider trend: Similar initiatives are on the march nationwide.