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'Explosive' earthquakes may be the cause of mysterious Bayou Corne sinkhole

Photo of the Bayou Corne sinkhole taken on May 27, 2013. Courtesy: Bayou Corne Sinkhole Facebook page

Photo of the Bayou Corne sinkhole taken on May 27, 2013. Courtesy: Bayou Corne Sinkhole Facebook page

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 7:19 PM - Nearly two years ago, a massive sinkhole opened up in Bayou Corne, Louisiana after a salt mine collapsed, causing natural gas to spread into nearby homes. As of June 3, 2014 the massive sinkhole was still expanding, with data suggesting the hole is now encompasses 20,000 square metres and is 100 metres deep.

While some of the 350 evacuated residents have since returned home, others remain displaced following the August, 2012 disaster.

Two months prior, some residents reported "unusual" occurrences -- i.e., bubbles arising from the water and small tremors. While the U.S. Geological Survey documented an increase in seismic activity in the days preceding the mine collapse, the cause could not be determined.

Now, researchers are suggesting that surges of gas-charged fluids may have generated an 'explosive' quake that could have played a role in the sinkhole's formation.

It's believed that gushes of either natural gas or water charged with natural gas may have spurred high-pressure explosive events, leading to earthquakes.

RELATED: New York sinkhole swallows car

Scientists discovered the tremors originated 470 metres beneath the surface of the western edge of the Napoleonville salt dome. According to LiveScience, the area is above and to the west of the salt cavern that collapsed, likely causing the sinkhole.

Researchers say they aren't sure where the natural gas that caused the tremor originated from.

The findings could shed some light on how pressurized fluids can lead to earthquakes that ultimately change the Earth's landscape.

The complete paper can be found in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.


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