Hemel Hempstead sinkhole causes houses to be evacuated

Chief Inspector Glen Channer: "It's a pretty substantial sized hole"

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A sinkhole estimated to be 35ft (9m) wide and 20ft (6m) deep has opened up in a suburban road in Hertfordshire, causing 17 houses to be evacuated.

The hole in Oatridge Gardens, Hemel Hempstead appeared at about 07:30 GMT.

Structural engineers and utility companies are at the scene of the cul-de-sac to assess the situation.

Dr Vanessa Banks, from the British Geological Society, said recent heavy rainfall had led to an "increased number" of sinkholes.

Sinkhole Residents were told to leave their homes in Oatridge Gardens

Max Green, who lives in a flat on the road, said: "It was a bit of a shock having the police knock on the front door at that time on a Saturday morning.

"At the moment we are stuck.

"The road is closed, we can walk out a side gate, but can't get out by car. I think we'll be stuck for a couple of days."

Demolition rumours

Mr Green said the hole opened up in the front garden of one of the houses that fronts on to the main road.

"When I looked out of the window... all I could see were lots of police and gas engineers," he said.

"They were worried it could have caused damage to the gas pipes."

Resident Rob Wheatley said there was talk the house on the corner near where the had hole opened up would have to be demolished.

"A tree has also fallen in to it," he said.

Dr Banks said: "Sinkholes have not been caused by the weather, they are triggered by the weather.

"The cause is the existence of a cavity at depth - be it artificial or natural - the trigger is actually that water passing through the ground.

"At the moment this increased number (of sinkholes) is largely a result of the increase in rainfall."

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