China Sinkhole: How Big Was The Massive Sinkhole That Killed 5 Factory Workers In Shenzhen?

By Philip Ross on May 21, 2013 5:16 PM EDT

sinkhole china
A sinkhole in China, like the one that swallowed several homes in Guatemala City in 2007 (pictured), killed five factory workers on Monday. (Photo: Reuters)

A sinkhole in China swallowed five factory workers in Shenzhen, a city and industrial park in southern China near Hong Kong.

The massive sinkhole in China measured 33-feet in diameter, according to AFP. The sinkhole collapsed just outside the Huamao Industrial Park during the factory worker's shift change. AFP reports that many of China's sinkholes are caused by the country's rapid development and construction works.

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The Shenzhen region experienced another sinkhole just a few months ago. After heavy rains soaked the ground in southern China in March, the earth became unstable and, in one area, a 26-foot-wide, 52-foot-deep pit formed near a construction site, killing a security guard. Gawker reported that 25-year-old Yang Jiabin was walking in the Futian district when the ground beneath him caved in.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, or USGS, sinkholes happen in areas that are over soft, soluble rock like limestone, dolomite and gypsum that dissolves with time due to water erosion. This causes giant caverns to form underground. When the earth above these caverns can no longer support its own weight, it collapses into the abyss.

"Any time you have a void underground, just like the natural cave system, you have the potential for collapse," one USGS geologist said in a video interview.

The USGS reports that about 20 percent of the U.S. is underlain by sinkholes, caves and underground drainage systems, all of which are prime for sinkhole formation. Additionally, sinkholes can also be man-made.

"Collapses can occur above old mines, from leaky faucets, when sewers give way, or due to groundwater pumping and construction," USGS reports.

Sinkholes know no political bounds, as witnessed by a massive sinkhole in the U.S. earlier this week. On Monday, a sinkhole in New Jersey swallowed a forklift and its operator. IScience Times reported earlier that the New Jersey sinkhole was 10 feet deep and that the forklift actually saved the operator's life by shielding him from debris.  

Read more from iScience Times:

New Jersey Sinkhole: Forklift Operator Swallowed By Huge 10-Foot Hole

Chicago Flood 2013 Sinkhole Swallows Cars: Watch Video Of The Shocking Aftermath [VIDEO]

Giant Sinkhole Threatens Neighborhood: Residents in Bayou Corne, Louisiana Evacuated

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