First there were the mysterious craters appearing in northwestern Siberia, including some accompanied by flashes of light and one that may have had a spaceship at the bottom. Next, the city of Novokuznetsk in a different part of Siberia was hit by a slow-moving landslide that was followed by multiple craters opening up. Now there’s news from Ukraine that a huge hole has mysteriously appeared that is threatening to swallow a small town. What’s eating away at Eastern Europe?
The latest crater opened up in late April 2015 in Solotvino, a small village in the Zakarpatska Oblast region of western Ukraine near the border with Romania. Residents say the 100 meters (330 feet) wide by 60 meters (200 feet) deep hole opened in just one day and swallowed seven houses in the process. The crater is getting larger by day and residents say it’s threatening other homes.
What’s even scarier, what one resident describes as “this huge abyss” is the largest but not the only crater opening in Solotvino. These holes have been appearing for the past 11 years, consuming gardens, roads, houses and now big chunks of the village.
Has Solotvino upset some underground force? You might say that. The village is built over abandoned salt mines. For over 200 years, salt has been removed from the ground and, when it’s gone, the village gets the shafts. The shafts fill with water which dissolves the limestone, gypsum and other soluble rocks, creating massive caverns which eventually collapse under the weight of buildings, roads and well-fed villagers.
Can the sinking of Solotvino be stopped? Sure – all it takes is seven years, a lot of dirt stuffed into the holes and 13.6 million euros (15.2 million U.S. dollars). That process was started by the government and soon abandoned because of the time and cost. The other alternative is to evacuate and give the town up to the holes. Residents of Solotvino don’t like that and neither do Romanians across the nearby border who are afraid their land will be eaten next. Discussions on what to do are ongoing.
In the meantime, the holes just keep on opening and Eastern Europe and Siberia just keep on disappearing.