Campers and picnic goers at the a popular beach in Queensland, Australia, witnessed the formation of a massive sinkhole that consumed a car, a camper trailer, and a caravan. According to ABC News, the sinkhole appeared at around midnight on Saturday on the popular Rainbow beach without warning, and eventually grew larger than a football field. Several campers had a lucky escape and just about barely managed to escape from falling into the sinkhole that was later found to be over 3 meters deep.
According to the Straits Times, no injuries were reported in the incident. However, people did lose a car, a caravan, and a trailer. According to eyewitness reports, there was panic and people were screaming when they started to realize that the sinkhole was expanding.
“There was all this yelling and screaming. Then a caravan went over the edge. Pretty scary,” a woman at the campsite told Channel Nine.
Minutes after the sinkhole started to form and expand, emergency service personnel responded and arrived at scene helping campers. Officials from The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services (QWPS) confirmed that they rescued over 140 people from the vicinity of the sinkhole.
Casey Hughes, an eyewitness to the incident, described that there was a thunderous noise when the sinkhole opened up. In an interview to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, she added that an unidentified woman was seen screaming through nearby campsites and yelling at people to get out of their tents and move away from the expanding sinkhole.
People also turned to Facebook and social media to talk about the sinkhole.
“OMG still can’t believe we got out, very scary. It was all gone just still don’t know how we all got out, one of our friends vans was half over the bank, then they winched it out, so so close (sic),” posted Janette Michelle Turner, a holidaymaker at Inskip Point.
Two employees from a local towing and recovery service firm were also camping nearby and shared their experience on Facebook, reports the Daily Mail Australia.
“They had camped approximately 200m from the beach next to the boundary fence of the campsite and heard a noise like a storm. On looking they realised the sand was rapidly disappearing into the ocean at a (sic) amazing speed. They only just got their 4wds (four wheel-drives) and caravans out with seconds to spare as their campsite disappeared three metres down into the ocean,” the post said.
By morning, officials ensured that everyone from the vicinity was safely moved, and the area was cordoned off to restrict access to pedestrians and vehicles. They have also erected barriers and warnings to keep people away from the area.
“We’ve cleared the area and no one has been reported missing or injured. It is now in the hands of the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing.”
With the possibility of the sinkhole to expand in size owing to the effects of ocean currents, people are being told to avoid the area until experts declare the area to be safe.
Senior ranger Dan Clifton said the following.
“There is a real possibility the hole could expand with ocean currents, so people are urged to avoid the area. While we continue to assess the situation, our priority is public safety.”
A team of geotechnical engineers will make an assessment of the site and then declare the area safe, a Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services official confirmed.
The area where the sinkhole appeared is known as Inskip Point, and the area has had a history with sinkholes. In 2011, another sinkhole had formed in the area. No loss of life was reported in that incident, as well.
[Photo by David McNew / Getty Images, Clayton’s Towing]