sinkhole
© Deutsche Presse-Agentur
November 1st 2010. Tiefenort, Germany. Depth is about 65 feet (20m).
A large sinkhole opened up overnight in the middle of residential area in Thuringia, sucking a nearby auto into its depths and forcing authorities to evacuate residents, police said on Monday.

The crater, measuring some 40 by 15 metres, appeared in the town of Schmalkalden, a police spokesperson said. The hole is believed to be some 20 metres deep, she added.

No-one was injured in the incident, but another vehicle near the hole is in danger of falling into the hole.

A number of homes in the vicinity were evacuated, and a large contingent of police and fire fighters were out trying to secure the site.

Authorities remain uncertain of what may have caused the sinkhole.

Germany is no stranger to dangerous ground shifts resulting from old mines.

In January 2010 two homes in the town of Tiefenort in Thuringia were evacuated after a landslide opened up a two-metre crater nearby.

The town is located near the site of a former calcium salt mine, and there was another landslide about eight years ago in the same area that was filled with concrete.

A similar event occurred in April 2010 in the neighbouring state of Saxony-Anhalt when a massive section of earth abruptly collapsed outside Bernburg, leaving a 40 metre-deep crater.

And in July 2009, three people were killed when their house collapsed into a lake in the Saxony - Anhalt town of Nachterstedt. The area near the town was extensively mined for lignite, or brown coal, during the 19th century, meaning the ground was shot through with hundreds of tunnels.

Image
© Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Although no one has so far been injured, a second vehicle near the hole is in danger of falling into the hole.
Image
© Deutsche Presse-Agentur
According to police, the crater is some 40 by 15 metres and 20 metres deep.
Image
© Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Authorities remain uncertain of what may have caused the sinkhole.
Image
© Deutsche Presse-Agentur
A number of homes in the vicinity were evacuated, and a large contingent of police and fire fighters were out trying to secure the site.