Fast-expanding Nova Scotia sinkhole sucks up trees

Scientists and officials aren’t sure what is causing the sinkhole to grow or how fast it might expand

A small Nova Scotia town is urging public caution as officials scramble to assess a large, fast-expanding sinkhole that has sucked up trees and picnic tables.

An Oxford, N.S., park has been roped off while geologists and emergency management officials assess the stability of the surrounding area, which includes a community centre, gas station and a Tim Hortons.

“It’s just amazing what Mother Nature can do,” said Linda Cloney, public relations officer for the town.

Town officials say the hole grew considerably overnight.

The sinkhole was measured on Tuesday morning at around 34 by 29 metres — about five metres wider than the previous night’s measurements.

Cloney said stability around the growing sinkhole is one of the biggest safety concerns, as scientists and officials still aren’t sure what is causing the sinkhole to grow or how fast it might expand.

“It really is a day by day, unpredictable event,” said Cloney.

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By Tuesday morning, the edge of the hole had expanded to the pavement of the Lions’ Club parking lot.

Pictures from the scene show 10-metre trees dropping into dark water and immediately disappearing.

Geologists and emergency management officials say they have no idea how deep the hole is.

Last week, a 40-foot spruce tree was sucked into the hole.

Playground equipment at Oxford and Area Lions Parkland was dismantled and moved to storage, as officials were unsure as to whether it would be safe to remove them in the coming days.

Security is on site around the clock to keep people out of the park while assessment work is ongoing.

The town is keeping security measures in place until the geologists’ report on the site can offer a better picture of how stable the surrounding area is.

“We’re letting it do its thing, watching and monitoring, and also learning from this,” said Cloney.

Staff at the nearby gas station and Tim Hortons said they are still open for business, though the massive hole can be seen from the coffee shop’s window.

The growing natural phenomenon has also attracted a growing number of visitors.

RELATED: Crews work to fix sinkhole on Highway 1

Cloney said the sinkhole has become a bit of a tourist attraction as people drive in for a glimpse, resulting in a few minor “fender benders” over the last few days.

“People are stopping in, they’re curious. You hear of sinkholes but this one is rather large,” Cloney said.

The road by the park is usually a busy spot for cars, as people pass through on their way to the nearby Pugwash beaches. The county exhibition is also in town, drawing more visitors than usual.

The uncertainty of the sinkhole’s expansion has also meant a number of disruptions to events at the Lions Club hall.

The Oxford Area Lions Club told The Canadian Press in a Facebook message that closing the hall has meant cancelling a wedding, a family function, and likely Girl Guides meetings in September. Other safety meetings, fundraisers, children’s programming, and flu shots will be up in the air if the hall remains inaccessible.

Cumberland Regional Emergency Management posted a video to Facebook Tuesday, showing a large chunk of earth breaking off and falling into the sinkhole, urging the public to stay away from the park.

The Canadian Press

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