Sinkhole in Rondebosch East leaves locals stunned

The silver Kia Picanto moments after falling into a sinkhole.

There was nothing wrong with your eyesight if you saw the rear end of a car sticking out of the ground near Burwood and Gordon roads in Rondebosch East around 1pm on Saturday August 20.

A sinkhole opened in the road, swallowing a silver Kia Picanto. Miraculously, nobody in the car was injured.

The City of Cape Town has launched an investigation into the unusual circumstances surrounding the incident that left many people in shock and asking questions.

Buchler Ketteringham, who lives a few houses away from where the incident took place, said she was left amazed.

“I firstly couldn’t believe what I saw. Seeing this car sticking out from the road, just like in the movies and I am just glad nobody was hurt,” she said.

A Rondebosch East resident for nearly 41 years, Ms Ketteringham said her concern was with the amount of time the City had taken to fill up the hole.

“Two days after the sinkhole, there were City officials standing around doing absolutely nothing. They kept laughing and smiling, looking as if they were enjoying the moment, but they were not filling this hole,” Ms Ketteringham said.

“I am mostly concerned for the animals and children in our area who might end up falling into this hole, which is quite deep.”

Another resident, William Roberts, questioned the safety of the rest of the road.

“Everytime I drive down the road, I now have to fear going down. It’s not like when you see a pothole and swerve around it. The problem is below the tar and basically it’s a gamble driving down the road. Any roads as a matter of fact, because this is really like in the movies – something you would see on Independence Day,” he laughed.

Mayco member for utility services, Ernest Sonnenberg, said they are investigating how the sinkhole occurred.

“Although at this stage, we strongly suspect the sinkhole was caused by a ruptured sewage pipe. A leak will have washed away the surrounding earth and destabilised the surface of the road,” Mr Sonnenberg said.

The City also plans to do a CCTV inspection of the pipeline, which will be carried out once the road had been restored.

“Ruptured pipes occur for a number of possible reasons and an exact cause is often not possible to pinpoint. Possible causes include settlement/ movement in the surrounding pipe backfill material and the ingress of roots. The cause of this incident is currently being investigated,” he said.

Although the City performs maintenance on its infrastructure, Mr Sonnenberg said a number of factors independent of the age and quality of the piping could cause an incident such as this, many of which cannot be anticipated.

Responding to questions about how common these incidents are in the country, Mr Sonnenberg said: “No, this is not a common issue. However, cities around the world experience similar incidents from time to time.

“The City is constantly performing proactive maintenance on infrastructure, however, when operating a network 10 000km long – the distance from Cape Town to Australia – a certain number of unplanned faults are unavoidable.”

Deputy mayor Ian Neilson said the motorist involved in the incident would be allowed to submit a claim for damages.

“Each claim is assessed on its own merit, which includes assessment of whether there has been any negligence or omission on the City’s side,” Mr Neilson said.