Residents were shocked when they awoke this morning (Thurs) to find a giant sinkhole had opened up – outside a CHURCH.
The ‘portal to hell’ as some locals cheekily called it, was so massive it took up an entire road lane – and swallowed an entire CAR.
The giant hole was discovered outside the Benefice of Charlton Saint Thomas’ Church in Charlton, south east London, after a night of very heavy rain.
Local Jamie Thornton was driving to work when he noticed the cordon outside his local church, which covered the entire road.
The 45-year-old said: “I saw the cordon and the front of the car, and thought it might have been chopped in half by something.
“On Wednesday night the weather was abysmal – we had this massive storm overhead that sounded like the heavens were opening.
“I couldn’t believe it when I realised there was this massive hole in the ground.
“We knew it was a holy place, but this is ridiculous.”
Car rental company area manager Jamie could not tell how deep the huge hole is, but it was deep enough to swallow almost all of the blue Vauxhall estate.
He added: “I have never seen anything like this before – you don’t expect dirty great holes opening up in the ground.
“I do hope it isn’t a portal to hell and the apocalypse is coming.”
Met Police are aware of the hole and are attending the scene.
A spokesperson said nobody was injured in the incident.
Clergy told of their shock after a massive sinkhole dubbed the “portal to hell” opened up outside a church.
The 12ft wide hole, which almost swallowed a Vauxhall estate car,t opened up overnight following heavy rainfall.
Highway engineers and police have cordoned off the area.
The Benefice of Charlton St Thomas’ Church Erica Woolff (corr) said she was stunned when she first saw the hole which is roughly 10ft deep.
She said: “I’m in shock.
“I feel so sorry for the person who owns the car, they will find out that their car has gone down a sink hole.
“There was a large storm last night and it has been raining relentlessly for three days.”
Erica, who has been Vicar of St. Thomas’ for eight years, added: “I think it has more to do with these storms we have been having, the steep hill, the rain and the laws of physics – which is of course divine intervention.”
The Vauxhall is owned by the brother of Abdul Ahmudzai (doub corr), 44, who said he woke up to see the sink hole at 4am.
Abdul said: “It is my brother’s car. The police say he cannot get it out until later when they pull it out.
“When I woke up his morning at 4am I saw the car. I just can’t believe it.
“He has had the car for about three years. When I told him it was in a sinkhole the first thing he said was to send him a picture.
“He isn’t very happy about it and neither am I, but there’s nothing we can do about it.
“There was quite a big storm last night.”
A team of highways engineers, utility companies and council contractors are working around the hole to determine whether any gas pipes were damaged.
A giant sinkhole that opened up outside a London church may have been caused by “chalk dissolution,” according to an expert.
Dr Mark Cowley, a Chartered Geologist and Scientist, said the sinkhole found in Woodland Terrace was a “classic example” of chalk dissolution.
He said: “Generally sinkholes are what are caused by a dissolution of limestone in the chalk which is highly susceptible to dissolution by natural groundwater percolating through fissures and joints.
“This dissolution can create three common types of features within the chalk, grouped together under the generic term ‘dissolution’ features.
“These can be either sinkholes – depressions at the ground caused by the collapse of overlying chalk or superficial deposits into underground voids created by dissolution, solution pipes or swallow holes.
“Swallow holes can suddenly occur due to water flowing from leaking mains services, leaking drains or poorly constructed soakaway systems.
“The risk of their occurrence can be established by undertaking a geological desk study of the area and by having discussions with a local building control officer, and by reference to the UK natural and manmade cavities database.
“The results of the desk study will normally enable you to establish the level of risk of their occurrence, ranging from no risk through to high risk.
“In areas of medium to high risk certain precautions are normally required to be incorporated into the design of a new building as a part of modern construction methods.
“A large solution feature opening up in a road can often be associated with a leaking water main or sewer that has occurred over time.
“The water in effect washing away the soils around the pipe and allowing them to be washed down a solution feature that exists at some depth, say 2 to 10m below it. Mains services are often laid in the road.”
He added: “Sinkholes are only a danger if you’re unlucky enough to fall down one.
“The best best is to talk to the local council and building control and they would be able to inform you whether an area is a high risk or not. ”
The owner of a car swallowed by a massive sinkhole said it was “God’s will.”
Fruit and veg shop owner Ghazi Hassan said: “God knows everything that happens.
“It is his will that these things happen.”
The 40-year-old owner of the Vauxhall Zafira added: “I’m going to call my insurance company and see what they say.
“The police say they are going to try and pull it out at some point today, hopefully.
“I rely on my car a lot. I won’t be able to take my children out. ”
The father-of-four, of Lewisham, south east London, added: “Thankfully, nobody was injured.
“Hopefully the car won’t be damaged.
“I’m not angry, this is a natural thing. Anything can happen. We have to thank God that it didn’t harm anybody.”
Professor of Geology Phil Collins, at Brunel University, said that heavy rainfall and 50 million year old sand and gravel was probably the cause of the hole.
He said: “This one is a cavity under the road surface that might been developing for some time.
“There’s a sand pit within 100 metres of the site which suggests there is probably some soft material there.
“It gets to a point where it gets too much and the whole lot gives way.
“We don’t know the exact cause. It even could be a collapsed mine.
“It looks like the tarmac is built on top of sand and gravel which is about 50 million years old.
“Tarmac is quite flexible when there is no support underneath it.
“It’s possible that the cavity will carry on deeper down.”
Prof Collins added: “It’s possible that the hole could get deeper especially if there is more rainfall.”
A shop owner whose car was swallowed by a huge sinkhole said he was “incredibly pleased” nobody was hurt.
Ghazi Hassan, 40, said it was “just a car” and his insurance company would organise for it to be pulled out of the whole and taken to a garage.
The grocer, from Lewisham, south east London, had left his car outside his brother’s house while he went to visit his nephew.
Mr Hassan said: “When my brother called me about it and I was very surprised.
“Thankfully, the car seems okay.
“The insurance company have said they will organise for it to be taken to a garage and fixed. Then they will give it back to me.
“I’ll be given a hire car in the meantime.”
He added: “I’m very pleased that my family were not hurt. After all, it’s just a car.
“I am pleased everyone is safe.
“I have a £350 excess on my insurance so hopefully I won’t have to pay all of it.
“Anything can happen, and it is not like God damages everything. Everything is in his hands. We all live in his world.”