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. A photo of an abandoned building in Providence, Rhode Island.
    Perspective

    There's No Such Thing as a Dangerous Neighborhood

    Most serious urban violence is concentrated among less than 1 percent of a city’s population. So why are we still criminalizing whole areas?

  2. a photo of a WeWork office building
    Life

    What WeWork’s Demise Could Do to NYC Real Estate

    The troubled coworking company is the largest office tenant in New York City. What happens to the city’s commercial real estate market if it goes under?

  3. a photo of cyclists riding beside a streetcar in the Mid Market neighborhood in San Francisco, California.
    Transportation

    San Francisco’s Busiest Street Is Going Car-Free

    A just-approved plan will redesign Market Street to favor bikes, pedestrians, and public transit vehicles. But the vote to ban private cars didn’t happen overnight.

  4. Bicycle riders on a package-blocked bicycle lane
    Perspective

    Why Do Micromobility Advocates Have Tiny-Demand Syndrome?

    In the 1930s big auto dreamed up freeways and demanded massive car infrastructure. Micromobility needs its own Futurama—one where cars are marginalized.

  5. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.

×