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A major roadway in the nation's capital is all but shut down after a gigantic sinkhole opened up late Wednesday morning.

Sinkhole: Officials hope Canada Day won't be impacted

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Thursday, June 9, 2016, 3:41 PM - The massive sinkhole that opened up in Ottawa downtown core Wednesday will take at least 2-3 weeks to fix, with officials anticipating the street to be open in time for the annual Canada Day festivities on July 1.

The photos and video of the sidewalk-to-sidewalk size sinkhole near the corner of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive, not far from several of the city's main attractions, captivated Canadians and spawned several mock social media accounts. Power was cut to hundreds of customers, and although it was later restored, many nearby businesses were evacuated, including the popular Rideau Centre. Some evacuees in the area reported the smell of gas, and a leak was later confirmed and corrected by officials. Gushing water from the nearby main break was also visible from those working in the buildings that surrounded the area.

The road was already partially closed to most traffic except public transit and taxis due to ongoing construction in the area related to LRT transit.

RELATED: The science of sinkholes

The sinkhole's initial emergence was already large enough to encompass a good-sized vehicle (watch above), but it quickly expanded across the street, such that a van eventually toppled into it. On Wednesday, the dimensions were confirmed at 28 metres wide and 40 metres long, with a varying depth of about five metres, said Steve Cripps, manager of the city's rail implementation office. The owner of the van famously caught disappearing in to the sinkhole was confirmed as a local locksmith, who asked police to remove his van before the incident, but was declined due to safety concerns.

"We're making sure that public safety is our key factor here ... We recommend for people to stay outside of the area until further notice," local city councillor Mathieu Fleury told CBC.

Global News is reporting the apparent cause of the sinkhole is a water main break, and initial footage from the scene showed water gushing into the hole, though the water was quickly shut off.

As it happens, the sinkhole formed above the subterranean construction site for part of the city's light rail system, and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson tweeted over the weekend that the excavation of the future Rideau station was finished. It is not known if there is a link between the underground construction and the sinkhole.

"We hope to have that answer, obviously, in the next few days," Watson told media. "We just don't know how long it's going to take...it's a significant sinkhole in the downtown core."

According to Dieter Stolle, a Civil Engineering professor at McMaster University, water is often the number one culprit when it comes to failure associated with the ground.

"Unfortunately, the impact of water in construction is often underestimated," he says. "In Ottawa, it may very well have been that a water main started to leak, leading to soil being washed away in the sewer lines that led to a cavity forming and eventual failure, causing a sinkhole."

Regardless of how the sinkhole formed, its presence in such a busy and vital part of the downtown, in the midst of a major shopping area and mere blocks away from Parliament Hill and hotels, is set to be a major distruption.

Downtown closures remain in effect on Thursday and the City of Ottawa offers this map to help plan your route. 

"Please continue to avoid area. Impact to traffic is high," the city said in a Thursday morning statement. "It is anticipated that the morning commute will continue to have interruptions and residents are encouraged to plan accordingly. Cars found parked in no-stopping zones in the downtown core will be towed to nearby roads."

The following closures are in place to facilitate emergency repairs on Rideau:

  • Rideau Street/Wellington Street eastbound is closed between Elgin Street southbound and Dalhousie Street
  • Rideau Street/Wellington Street westbound is closed between Dalhousie Street and Mackenzie Boulevard
  • Colonel By Drive/Sussex Drive is closed between Daly Avenue and George Street
  • Elgin Street northbound is closed between Albert Street and Rideau Street
  • Colonel By Drive northbound is closed at Main Street
  • Mackenzie King Bridge between Waller Street and Elgin Street is open, but is deemed transit priority and is subject to intermittent closures to general traffic, as required.

Downtown residents are also being warned of potentially discoloured water as a result of the sinkhole. The city assures, "this may affect taste but doesn’t pose a health risk."

Sinkhole on social

And, because Twitter is Twitter, the sinkhole had its own parody account within minutes:

SOURCE: Global News | CBC

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