The residents of the quiet, central German town of Schmalkalden got a huge early morning surprise Monday when a crater nearly 100 feet across and 70 feet deep opened up in the middle of a residential area, according to several news reports. None of the town's citizens were injured.
Wolfgang Peter, a resident, said he was awakened by a roaring sound at 3 a.m., reported Der Spiegel, a German news magazine.
"First I heard the rushing of water and then it sounded as if a dozen gravel trucks were being emptied," Peter said, adding that when he went outside to investigate he suddenly found himself standing on the edge of a giant crater right next to his house.
The Associated Press reports that 25 people and six houses were evacuated from the scene.
Although authorities have yet to determine the exact cause of the hole, most news reports indicate it was natural causes and not mining that led the soil to collapse. A spokesman for the Environment and Agriculture Ministry in the Thuringia State, which contains the town of Schmalkalden, told Der Spiegel that the region is prone to landslides because of its geological makeup. The spokesman pointed out a similar case in the town of Tiefenort where five houses became uninhabitable when a crater more than 6-and-a-half feet deep opened up in January.
Authorities plan to fill the hole with gravel, the AP reports.