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What are some facts about sinkholes?

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Quick Answer

A sinkhole is the result of the surface layer of the ground collapsing, causing a depression to form beneath. Sinkholes can range in size from tiny to massive, anywhere between only a few feet in diameter to miles across. Sinkholes are found all over the earth, and while some take years to develop, others form rapidly.

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Full Answer

Sinkholes form both naturally and artificially. They almost always involve some form of surface erosion. The natural process for the formation of a sinkhole involves water deposits located beneath the soil that gradually erode the surface, weakening the structural integrity and causing a collapse. Sinkholes are most commonly created when the primary material of the surface is limestone, gypsum, salt beds or carbonate rocks.

Sinkholes are sometimes man-made as well, though usually not by design or on purpose. These types of artificial sinkholes can result from a mine collapsing or from sewage pipes rupturing, causing a flow of liquid onto a man-made surface that cannot support the new weight. This new weight then causes a collapse of the material, thus forming a sinkhole.

Some of the most notable sinkholes in the United States are the Devil's Millhopper in Gainesville, Fla. and the Bayou Corne sinkhole in Assumption Parish, La. One of the largest sinkholes in the world is called the Sima Humboldt, located in Venezuela. It measures at 1,030 feet deep.

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