A giant, water-filled sinkhole that appeared in late May at a farm in central Mexico has grown larger than a football field, begun swallowing a house and trapped two dogs in its depths.
“It’s a very hard time for us,” said Magdalena Xalamigua Xopillacle, whose brick-and-cinderblock house was slowly collapsing into the sinkhole. “It hurts because this is all that we have. At times, we feel sick from so much sadness.”
The government of the central state of Puebla managed to pull the dogs out of the sinkhole after emotional pleas from animal lovers to rescue them. The dogs had been trapped for about four days on a ledge on the sheer sides of the hole, which drops 50 feet to the water.
Because the loose soil at the edges keeps collapsing into the water at the bottom of the pit, for days it was considered too dangerous to try to rescue the animals.
On Thursday, a firefighter descended into the pit, in part by using a ladder to steady the soil on the edge. His colleagues were seen standing farther back using ropes and a pulley system to haul up cages carrying the two dogs.
The state government distributed photos of the dogs, named Spay and Spike, looking alert and in the care of veterinarians.
The dogs apparently were playing in the farm field surrounding the sinkhole when they fell in.
The sinkhole in the town of Zacatepec in Puebla state, east of Mexico City, is now over 400 feet across in some place and could be 150 feet at its deepest point, though it’s hard to tell because water fills the crater.
The Mexican government has sent in soldiers to keep people 2,000 feet from the hole, which is 50 feet deep.
Some residents believe the sinkhole is the result of excessive groundwater extraction by factories or a water-bottling plant in the area. But the bottom of the hole is filled with water that appears to have strong currents, and the national civil defense office said experts think it was caused by something like an underground river.
“It is highly probable that the origin is associated with the presence of subterranean water flows,” the office said.
Puebla Gov. Miguel Barbosa said experts are studying both possibilities. If water extraction is the culprit, Barbosa said he would cancel any permits.
Citing a risk of further ground fractures, the government warned people to stay away from the site, saying, “This is not a tourist attraction or a place to visit with your family.”
Authorities have set up metal barriers and police tape to keep onlookers out and has restricted flying drones over it.