Sinkholes threaten Croatian village after earthquake

·2-min read

MECENCANI, Croatia (Reuters) - A village in central Croatia has been living in fear since a devastating earthquake in December when sinkholes began to appear around their houses and in their fields, some of them up to 15 metres (49 feet) wide.

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck Croatia on Dec. 29, killing seven people and leaving huge material damage. Central regions were most affected, but it was also felt strongly in the capital Zagreb.

Since then around 90 sinkholes have appeared in the area around Mecencani. Andja Jelecevic watched on helplessly as one opened up right by her home.

"The hole opened up in the yard, close to the steps, and it has been widening. I was told to leave the place immediately and that I could go back only on my own responsibility," she said.

Jelecevic now lives in a container home erected in the yard of one of her neighbours.

Another resident, Stojan Kresojevic, still has his house, but says he and his wife share a constant sense of unease.

"We feel very uncomfortable. The sinkholes are around us, the uncertainty is killing us. We don't know if we will be forced to leave. These holes are dangerous as they open up suddenly with water spurting out," he said.

Sinkholes are not unheard of in the region, but rarely do so many appear in such a short period of time.

Geologist Ivan Kosovic said groundwater was causing the limestone sediment to dissolve, while water from above was affecting the higher sediment of clay and sand.

"We can expect the sinkholes to continue appearing in the coming months when we expect high groundwater levels. That is why we now need regular monitoring," he said.

Any effort to stabilise the ground by geotechnical engineers would have to avoid the use of materials that could pollute a nearby reservoir, Kosovic said.

(Reporting by Antonio Bronic, writing by Igor Ilic; Edited by Raissa Kasolowsky)