Narrow escape for campers after huge sinkhole opens up at Australian beach

A handout image shows a 150m-long and 50m-wide sinkhole which opened up at Inskip Point, Australia, on Sept 27, 2015, and swallowed a car, a caravan, a camping trailer and tents.
A handout image shows a 150m-long and 50m-wide sinkhole which opened up at Inskip Point, Australia, on Sept 27, 2015, and swallowed a car, a caravan, a camping trailer and tents. PHOTO: EPA

SYDNEY - Campers at a popular spot near Queensland's Rainbow Beach had a narrow escape when a sinkhole bigger than a football field and 3m deep opened up around midnight last Saturday (Sept 26), swallowing vehicles as it expanded.

No one was injured in the incident at Inskip Point, which is the second time a sinkhole has occurred in the area, with the last one taking place in 2011. However, a car, a caravan and a camper trailer were lost to the massive depression.

"There was all this yelling and screaming. Then a caravan went over the edge. Pretty scary," a woman at the campsite told Channel Nine, reported The Telegraph.

Police and State Emergency Service personnel were quick to the scene, helping campers in the immediate vicinity of the 150m-by-50m sinkhole to leave. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services (QWPS) said 140 people were evacuated from the site.

Describing the incident, holidaymaker Casey Hughes told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) the sinkhole "sounded like a thunder noise" as it opened up. One woman ran screaming through nearby campsites banging on caravans and yelling for people to get out.

Ms Janette Michelle Turner, a holidaymaker at Inskip Point, wrote on Facebook: "OMG still can't believe we got out, very scary."

"It was all gone just still don't know how we all got out, one of our friends vans was half over the bank, then they winched it out, so so close (sic)," Ms Turner wrote.

Two employees of Clayton's Towing, a Sunshine Coast towing and recovery service firm, were also camping at the ground and the company posted on Facebook about their narrow escape, reported the Daily Mail Australia.

"They had camped approximately 200m from the beach next to the boundary fence of the campsite and heard a noise like a storm. On looking they realised the sand was rapidly disappearing into the ocean at a (sic) amazing speed. They only just got their 4wds (four wheel-drives) and caravans out with seconds to spare as their campsite disappeared three metres down into the ocean," the post said.

The area has now been cordoned off to prevent vehicle and pedestrian access, though other camping grounds at Inskip Point remain open, reported The Guardian. Rangers and police have erected traffic barriers and warnings signs to advise beachgoers of potential risks.

"We've cleared the area and no one has been reported missing or injured. It is now in the hands of the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing," a Queensland Police spokesman said.

Senior ranger Dan Clifton said, "There is a real possibility the hole could expand with ocean currents, so people are urged to avoid the area. While we continue to assess the situation, our priority is public safety."

The QPWS said it will monitor the situation and approach geotechnical engineers to provide an assessment of the site.