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Residents watch in horror as pit swallows cars

| 30.05,09. 10:16 PM |

Residents watch in horror as pit swallows cars

May 30, 2009 12:00am

IT was the night the earth opened up - and swallowed a chunk of one of Sydney's most exclusive suburbs.

Residents watched in shock and amazement as two parked cars and a power pole on Bellevue Hill's Victoria Rd vanished into a 25m-deep abyss, which was caused by a burst water main.

While authorities debate just who is responsible for the damage, Victoria Rd will remain closed for up to nine months and repairs to nearby Cooper Park could take even longer. Sydney Water yesterday promised a full investigation, with a war of words already erupting with Woollahra Council over just who is to blame.

Gallery: Amazing pictures from the scene

Two cars - owned by residents Sam Harris and Yvette Chin - remained buried under sand at the bottom of Cooper Park after sliding into the crater about 8pm on Thursday.

Pippa Markham, who lives in an apartment block about 50m away, was told her car was just a metre from falling into the hole by a friend who rushed into her unit to warn her.

"My friend turned up and had seen cars fall down the slope and came into my house and said, 'Oh my God'," Ms Markham said.

She said she came out onto the street to tell two police officers her car was close to the crater. "They said, 'Well, you're lucky to be alive, forget about your car'."

Read one resident's account of how her car sat at the edge of the crater

Ms Markham's car and others near the hole were removed to safety yesterday.

Paul Stradbrook, 19, captured footage on his mobile phone of one of the cars and the power pole sliding into the hole.

"I saw cars going in and the telegraph pole going in," he said.

"The police told us to 'Get back, get back, get out of this area'. It was kind of scary when I saw the cars going in, I thought we might lose the whole road.

"I was thinking 'Something exciting is finally happening in Bellevue Hill'."

Police said Victoria Rd would be closed "indefinitely" between Bellevue Rd and Birriga Rd and Bellevue Rd would be closed between Buller St and Victoria Rd.

Former Pittwater Council general manager and retired engineer Angus Gordon said fixing the road would be a major task.

"They will have to excavate all the slip away and build a large retaining wall before they can put all the services back in and put the road back," he said.

Woollahra Council said its officers reported leaking water at the site twice, once on Tuesday and again on Thursday.

Sydney Water said nearby jackhammering might have caused a major pipe to crack. A spokesman said the Sydney Water crew decided the puddle was nothing but stormwater when they were there on Thursday.

"They were satisfied that the flow was coming from the ground, not from a water main," he said.

"Of course, we're not responsible for repairing stormwater that comes from the ground so basically our crew left."

The spokesman said that the age of water infrastructure - the particular mains pipe was layed in 1945 - was not considered a problem. Soil types, traffic impacts, changes of temperature or pressure could trigger breakages, he said.

But a council spokeswoman said jackhammering about 20m away had "nothing to do with" the disaster.

The Daily Telegraph

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