Sinkhole A Nightmare, Say Homeless Owners

The owners of a house under which a huge sinkhole has opened up have told Sky News it was "a nightmare" and they have lost their home.

The 25ft hole - the UK's sixth in a month - caused huge cracks to open up in the walls of the house in a close in Ripon, North Yorkshire overnight on Monday.

A total of three homes have been evacuated because it is feared that one of them might collapse.

Peter Cunningham, who lives in the home with his wife Susan, told Sky's Gerard Tubb: "It's like being in a nightmare. We're not going to be able to go back into it. It's gone, I'm sure.

"Last night, I thought 'this is not happening'."

He described the scene as he returned to his home at around 5.40pm on Monday having been away when the hole opened up.

He said: "I just walked up the footpath and there was a crack in the footpath and in the pavement which I thought was a bit odd.

"I could not open the back door ... and then I looked up at the wall and there was a big crack in the side of the building.

"As I came away, I could hear it coming away. It was creaking and cracking and crumbling."

His wife Susan, who arrived soon afterwards, said: "I could not believe it. I dialled 999 and then everything was taken out of our hands."

A cordon has been put in place to protect members of the public. Firefighters, ambulance crews, utilities engineers and structural engineers are also at the scene.

It is thought that gypsum subsidence has caused ground instability in the area. Concerns caused councillors to reject a plan for 75 homes less than half a mile away earlier this month.

On Sunday, a 5ft-wide, 20ft-deep chasm was reported in the back garden of a suburban property in Croxley Green, near Watford in Hertfordshire.  A house and three flats were evacuated.

Eight miles away in Hemel Hempstead, 17 homes were evacuated when a 35ft-wide hole opened up on the corner of a residential street.

Motorists on the M2 suffered days of chaos after a huge void appeared in the central reservation, closing a 10-mile stretch of the motorway near Sittingbourne.

On Tuesday, two more sinkholes were reported to have appeared on farmland between Sittingbourne and Faversham, about a mile away from the M2.

In Barnehurst, southeast London, another huge sinkhole appeared in the back garden of a home a few feet from a child's trampoline.

And earlier this month, a sinkhole measuring 30ft-deep swallowed a car after opening on the driveway of a house in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

There are usually around 20 sinkholes a year in the UK, although many appear in rural areas and go largely unnoticed.

Experts are blaming the weather which has seen record levels of rainfall during December, January and February.

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