A large sinkhole opened Wednesday morning near one of the busiest intersections in downtown Ottawa, prompting officials to evacuate several nearby buildings and a construction site deep below street level.
When the hole first formed, it was large enough to swallow at least one vehicle but then seemed to grow suddenly to stretch across the entire four-lane street.
— Anne-Sophie Alarie (@_Sophster) June 8, 2016
A dramatic video posted on Twitter showed a van being swallowed.
At an afternoon news conference, city officials — including Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson — told reporters that the precise cause of the sinkhole near the corner of Sussex Drive and Rideau Street has not been determined. A water main break was originally blamed, and water could be seen gushing into the hole from a nearby pipe.
There is ongoing construction work in the area linked to Ottawa’s new light-rail transit system, scheduled to open in 2018. Workers were actually in the tunnel being constructed deep beneath Rideau Street when the sinkhole opened at street level.
They evacuated immediately, according to Watson, and none were injured.
“At this point we do not have any record of any injuries or any missing persons,” the mayor noted. “I’m proud of our emergency response.”
The soil in that area of downtown Ottawa is softer than in other sections of the proposed light-rail line, officials confirmed, but it’s unclear if the soil conditions, or the tunnelling, were to blame for the sinkhole.
Watson called the situation “serious.” It is unclear when the street might re-open to traffic, and the public is being strongly urged to avoid the area.
This is the second sinkhole to open up since the city began working on the 2.5-kilometre tunnel. In 2014, a 12-metre deep sinkhole opened up near Laurier Avenue and Waller Street.
Water service was disrupted Wednesday to over 800 customers in the immediate area, according to Hydro Ottawa.
OC Transpo reported that Rideau St. had been closed to all traffic from Sussex Dr. to Dalhousie St. All buses serving the Rideau Centre stops were being re-directed to the Mackenzie King Bridge transit station.
Not long after the sinkhole opened up, it already had its own Twitter account.
Om nom nom! I like vans! Vans in my belly! Vanny vanny vans!
— Rideau Sinkhole (@Rideau_Sinkhole) June 8, 2016