FALMOUTH, N.S. — Members of a Nova Scotia family awoke to the sounds of what they believed to be an intruder early Sunday morning, police said — but it turned out the threat was coming from underneath their home.
The clamour they heard downstairs turned out not to be a home invasion, said RCMP Cpl. Andrew Joyce, but their two-storey house in Falmouth collapsing into a sink hole.
“(The officers) found it to be an environment issue rather than a criminal issue,” he said.
Joyce said fire crews and a hazmat team were called to the scene and the family was safely moved from the home, 70 kilometres from Halifax.
Paul Maynard, a deputy fire chief with the Hantsport Fire Department, said the first floor of the house had “virtually collapsed” into the gaping hole, which he estimated to be up to nine metres deep.
“When we got close enough to look down the hole, we actually saw the kitchen table and dining room chairs were all piled in at the bottom of the hole,” Maynard said. “We really, truly don’t have a good appreciation of how deep it is.”
Crews secured the site and disconnected the home’s utilities, Maynard said. As additional sink holes opened up on the property, he said the brick face of the house cracked and sagged into the ground.
In his 28 years at the fire department, Maynard said he has never seen a sink hole “swallow” a building.
“There’s really no foundation underneath it … It’s kind of just free standing over this massive sink hole,” he said. “We really didn’t know what was holding it up, to be quite honest.”
Maynard said the home belongs to a family of four, but only two people were inside the residence during the incident.
Firefighters were sent into the home in safety harnesses to retrieve personal belongings like family photos and passports, Maynard said.
The family remains in good spirits, he said, but the property is more or less a “write off.” Come Monday, he guessed, the building will fully collapse into the hole.
Municipal authorities in the district of West Hants said they have been assured the sink hole was an isolated natural event limited to the one property.
They say the building is slated to be demolished “as soon as possible” and the structure is too unsafe for the family to retrieve the rest of their belongings.
The municipality said experts have been brought in to assess the damage, and it has also ordered a more detailed assessment of the site.
The Canadian Press