Guatemala Sinkhole, 2010
Heavy rains from tropical storm Agatha likely triggered the collapse of a hugesinkhole in Guatemala on Sunday, seen above a few days afterward.
Guatemala Sinkhole, 2007
In 2007 a similar sinkhole had opened up in Guatemala City—not far from where the 2010 sinkhole appeared. Based on pictures, both sinkholes are thought to have been about 60 feet (18 meters) wide and about 300 feet (100 meters) deep immediately after collapsing.
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Lisbon, Portugal, Sinkhole
A parked bus was the unfortunate "meal" of a sinkhole that opened up in the streets of Lisbon, Portugal, in 2003.
Anything that increases the flow of water into subsurface soil can speed up the formation of sinkholes, Missouri State's Gouzie said.
In many cities, utility infrastructure such as sewer lines and fiber optic cables are buried in troughs filled with loose material, which can wash away over time. In some cases, a stretch of road can essentially become a concrete bridge over mostly empty space.
"It's eventually not enough to hold the weight of the next truck over it," Gouzie said.
Neversink Pit, Alabama
Neversink Pit, a wet limestone sinkhole in Alabama seen above in 1998, is about 50 feet (15 meters) deep and houses a rare species of fern. The sinkhole was bought in the 1990s by a group of cavers to preserve it for future generations.
Winter Park, Florida, Sinkhole
The sinkhole in Winter Park, Florida (map), opened up in 1981 underneath the city's public swimming pool, Missouri State's Gouzie said.
Mulberry, Florida, Sinkhole
This 185-foot-deep (56-meter-deep) sinkhole appeared in 1994 in Mulberry, Florida (map), in a pile of waste material dumped by mining company IMC-Agrico. The company was mining rock to extract phosphate, a main ingredient in fertilizers and a chemical used to produce phosphoric acid, added to enhance the taste of soda and various food items.
Adventure kayaker Mick Coyne lowers himself down the wall of a sinkhole toward the headwaters of the Jokulsa, Iceland's second longest river.
Though the river is fed by melt from a glacier, this 150-foot (45-meter), inverted funnel-shaped hole was blasted into being by rising steam from geothermal vents below.
Picher, Oklahoma, Sinkhole
Years of mining for zinc and lead has left Picher, Oklahoma, near the border with Kansas (see map), literally full of holes—including this sinkhole seen in 2008. Some mines were dug too close to the surface, and the roofs were unable to support the weight of earth on top, leading to collapses.
Ik-Kil Cenote, Mexico
Swimmers float in the saphirre waters of the Ik-Kil cenote, near the Maya site of Chichén Itzá in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. Cenote means "natural well" in Spanish.
Sinkholes occurring at sea level will fill up as high as the water table, creating the famous clear blue pools, used by the Maya royalty for both relaxation and ritual sacrifices
Blue Hole, Belize
Sinkholes can happen anywhere water can erode a vertical channel that connects to a horizontal drain, a situation that allows a column of solid material to wash away, Missouri State's Gouzie explained.
If the sinkhole is near the sea—or in the sea, as with the famous Blue Hole in Lighthouse Reef off the coast of Belize—seawater can quickly seep in after a collapse, forming a deep pool.