Swirling sinkhole devours huge chunk of land in Kenya

Swirling sinkhole devours huge chunk of land in Kenya

A swirling sinkhole swallowed a huge chunk of land in the county of Kericho in Great Rift Valley, Kenya, on May 1, 2020, as heavy rains continue to pound the country. As of May 4, the death toll across the country reached 164, government officials confirmed. Kenya's rainy season lasts from March to May.

The sinkhole initially tucked in water from a puddle, before it started rapidly devouring the swamp.

The region where the shocking scene happened is part of the East African Rift Valley-- a tectonically-active zone that is slowly splitting apart the African Plate. The rift system is marked by substantial volcanic activity, including lava emissions from cracks along the rifts of volcanoes such as Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.

Shifts in the plates can unveil cracks and underground voids that can become visible if the soil over it erodes, which is what happened in the county.

"As water flows into the ground, it filters its way through the grains of dirt, rock, and sand in the topsoil and even through the grains of the underlying bedrock," Weather Network meteorologist Scott Sutherland explained.

"If that bedrock is made of something like gypsum, limestone, or dolomite, the water can wear it away, simply by dissolving away some of the sediments that make up the rock."

"This can take a long time with normal water, but with constant or repeated exposure, this can carve large holes and even extensive cave systems through the bedrock. If the water happens to be acidic, however, such as absorbing carbon dioxide before it trickles down through the top-soil, this can dramatically speed up the process."

Heavy rainfall has been affecting the region over the past few weeks, causing hundreds of deaths and widespread damage.

Featured image credit: chave weather/YouTube

Tags: kenya, sinkholes

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