On February 23, 2007, in Guatemala City, Guatemala, a giant round sinkhole, reported to be 100 meters deep (about 330 feet), collapsed into the earth, swallowing up a dozen homes, and killing 3 people.

Giant sinkhole, Guatemala City, Guatemala 2007.

Close up view of the giant sinkhole that collapsed in February 2007, in Guatemala, City, Guatemala.

What’s so incredible is how round and symetrical the sinkhole formed, leading some to say the images were faked or photoshopped, but sadly, the images are real. Although, it has popularly been called a sinkhole, geologists would classify this formation as a piping feature, or a piping pseudokarst.

Aerial view of the giant sinkhole, Guatemala City, Guatemala 2007.

Aerial view of the February 2007 Guatemala City sinkhole.

Theories on the Sinkhole’s Formation

Most of Guatemala City is built upon uncemented volcanic ash and gravel-like deposits, originating from ancient volcanic activity. It is essentially a valley that has been naturally filled in with loose, easily eroded volcanic material. Over time, water can erode enormous underground caverns, which has the potential to eventually collapse in upon itself. While natural water runoff or waterways can cause the erosion, in this case, it is thought to have been caused by aging and leaking sewer infrastructure.

Guatemala sinkhole 2007.

Another view of the large sinkhole in Guatemala City that occurred in February 2007.

Evacuation and Lost Lives

Foul odors, loud noises, and the sounds of rushing water could be heard from the depths of the large hole. Tremors were also felt, causing the police to establish a 500-yard perimeter around the sinkhole. Nearly a thousand people were forced to evacuate their homes, possibly permanently, in what was considered a poor neighborhood of Guatemala City. Sadly three people fell victim to the sinkhole and lost their lives. Teenagers Irma and David Soyos, and their father Domingo Soyos, 53, were retrieved from the rushing waters at bottom of the giant sinkhole.

Warnings Prior to the Collapse

Neighborhood resident Edward Ramirez, who lived just 50 yards away from the collapsed sinkhole, along with other nearby residents, had been hearing noises and feeling tremors for about a month preceding the sinkhole collapse. Apparently, authorities has suspected something usual as well. INSIVUMEH, which is a seismology institute in Guatemala, had placed seismic monitoring equipment in the area. The city had also contracted a robotic camera to investigate the area underground, but the collapse occurred before the investigation could take place.