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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City Street Collapses and Swallows Up Car

Alla Tarasova watched as a street in central Moscow sank into the earth, dragging a car and the facade of a two-story building into the yawning chasm.

No one was hurt, but the gaping muddy hole grew to cover about 500 square meters near the intersection of Ulitsa Bolshaya Dmitrovka and Stoleshnikov Pereulok, just a few hundred meters from the mayor's office and both houses of parliament.

The "loud clap" of the street giving way brought Tarasova to the window late Wednesday night in time to see a man hop out of a Toyota four-wheel-drive vehicle.

"Just as he stepped away, the pavement started to crack and very quickly the car disappeared into a giant hole, nose down," said Tarasova, a pensioner who works as a night guard for a private firm.

"After that, I just grabbed my stuff and ran out through the back door," she said.

The sinkhole caused cracks to appear in nearby buildings, and 83 people were evacuated from their apartments in the middle of the night. But the cracks haven't worsened, and the buildings should be safe for residents to return to their homes soon, Deputy Mayor Valery Shantsev said Thursday.

The building that lost its facade and another two-story building next to it were damaged beyond repair and will be demolished. No one lived in them. The city agreed to reimburse the driver of the Toyota for the vehicle, which was almost brand new, Shantsev said.

The street sank because the ground underneath it filled with water and collapsed into a construction site 27 meters deep, where a major pipe-replacement project is under way, he said.

It was unclear where the water came from, although it had been raining heavily all day.

Most of the ground in the area has a layer of natural clay, Shantsev said, but in the spot where the chasm occurred the ground was sand. As it became soaked with water, the ground began falling into the construction area below, where seven men were working at the time.

"The workers managed to secure the tunnel and escape to safety, and then the ground above them collapsed," said the deputy mayor, who visited the site Thursday.

The underground works are so extensive that they have their own concrete-producing plant deep under the streets, he said.The street collapsed shortly before midnight, and by 2 a.m. Thursday trucks loaded with crushed stone and sand were pulling up to the edge of the giant pit. By afternoon it was filled-in.

"By Monday, I'm sure the street will function normally again," Shantsev said.

The city was still trying to determine why the ground gave way. Shantsev said the accident may lead to increased geological testing prior to any construction projects.

The residents who had to leave their apartments were put up in Moscow hotels for three days at city expense.

While city officials insisted Thursday that the apartment buildings are safe, not all residents were anxious to return to their homes.

Tatyana Biryukova said she was scared to go back to her apartment in a 100-year-old building on Bolshaya Dmitrovka, just meters away from the chasm.

"How do I know that it will not collapse now," she said.