From our special UK sinkhole correspondent, Sophie.Time to get the builders in… Seven houses have been evacuated after a sinkhole appeared in gardens in a North Yorkshire market town dubbed the sinkhole capital of Britain.
Emergency crews were called to the 66ft hole in Magdalen’s Road, Ripon, on Tuesday night, the fire and rescue service confirmed.
Householder Ben Bramley fell asleep watching snooker and woke to find his back garden had sunk down a giant hole.
Bramley, 43, wife Adele, 40, and their son Joshua, 17, heard an alarming noise outside at about 10.30pm on Wednesday and rushed outside to find their garden had been swallowed.
Two neighbouring properties lost the edges of their gardens and the entire row of 1930s terraced houses was quickly evacuated.
Residents of seven houses had to sleep in hotels, the neighbouring pub or with relatives.
Bramley, a project manager for bookmaker William Hill, said: “I had fallen asleep watching the snooker on telly when my wife ran in absolutely frantic, shouting that something was happening outside.
“I could hear the strangest noise, it wasn’t massively loud it was more like a hissing, like sand slipping. It was obviously coming from behind the house and we rushed out to find total devastation.
“All that was left was the paving that led to the garden and a massive hole that had come within 10ft of the back door.
“In the dark it was hard to tell the scale of it but it was clear that there was a hole of epic proportions that had taken our entire garden and the flanks of our neighbours’ gardens.
“The elderly lady who lives next door was outside in her nightie and was very distressed, but we were helpless, there was nothing we could do except call the council and the fire brigade.
“They arrived extremely quickly and took control – we were told it was safest to leave as quickly as possible. We went to stay with my parents who live nearby and I returned in the morning to assess the damage.
“The first thing that struck me when I saw it in daylight was how close it had come to swallowing up the house, so in that respect we’re lucky. The hole is 20ft by 10ft wide and I’d say 30ft deep at least, with our garden furniture somewhere at the bottom.
“The area is built on gypsum, which is porous, and sometimes when it holds enough water it simply collapses. It looks as though that is what has happened here.”
The future of his £160,000 two-bedroom terrace, which he and his family have lived in since 2003, is unclear.
Bramley said: “We are in dialogue with the insurance company and we’re hoping that we can recover our losses that way. Selling the house any time soon seems pretty unlikely.”
A spokesman for North Yorkshire fire and rescue said: “Two fire crews and an officer from Ripon attended a sinkhole that had appeared at the rear of two properties. There were no injuries but seven properties were evacuated.
“The hole measured approximately 20 metres by 10 metres, with an unknown depth.
“We are reattending the incident this morning with several other agencies who attended during the night.”