At least six people were killed and 16 were injured on Monday after an enormous sinkhole swallowed a bus and nearby pedestrians in Xining, the capital of China’s Qinghai province.
The incident took place on Monday evening. CCTV footage showed an explosion within the sinkhole after the bus and pedestrians had fallen into it. Footage from before the explosion shows people waiting at a bus stop attempting to flee as the road beneath the bus begins to cave in, swallowing the front end of the vehicle, a lamppost, and nearby pedestrians.
Witnesses attempted to rescue some of the bus passengers but soon found themselves engulfed by the sinkhole as it began to widen. At one point, a young man is seen rescuing a baby from the edge of the sinkhole and taking it to safety. He then comes back with several others to help a woman hanging on the edge, but as he tries to pull her up, the ground beneath him gives way.
Over 1,000 emergency workers and 30 rescue vehicles were called to the scene, with search and rescue operations still underway by Tuesday evening. Passerby Sun Wanhong, a retired armed police officer who also fell into the hole after trying to help the woman, described the incident to the state-run news magazine China Newsweek.
“I heard someone shouting ‘Help! Help!’ and ran over. I saw a person hanging on the edge, so I reached out my hand to grab her. As soon as I reached her, (the road) collapsed again and there was nothing at the bottom, and several people who were helping out with me fell through,” he explained.
“There was water running above, and an explosion took off due to the electricity cable. The sound was huge … a water pipe broke, and water poured in,” he said.
Sinkholes are a common occurrence in China and are often the result of poorly planned infrastructure projects carried out as quickly as possible in a bid to meet dictator Xi Jinping’s aggressive targets for economic development. In 2018, four people were killed in a sinkhole accident on a busy pavement in the city of Dazhou, China.
In 2016, at least three people fell into a huge sinkhole in central Henan province, swallowing an entire section of road and passersby. Investigations after the incident indicated it was the result of water pipes buried under the road breaking up due to heavy rain. A further five people died in 2013 when a ten-meter-wide (33-foot) sinkhole opened up at the gates of an industrial estate in Shenzhen.