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Sinkhole swallows house in Quebec, four people missing

By Stephanie Dearing     May 11, 2010 in Environment
Saint-jude - A house in Saint-Jude, Quebec was swallowed up by a sinkhole and landslide Monday night. The family of four, believed to be in house, have not been found.
Rescue workers have been given permission to re-enter the house to try to find the family said the Montreal Gazette. The Associated Press said would-be rescuers had already entered the house earlier, but could not access all of the house. The house has been swallowed up by a giant sinkhole, although the roof is poking out. Landslides in the area over Monday night saw homes evacuated, and a number of houses have been lost to sinkholes. Believed missing are an unnamed couple and their two children aged 9 and 11.
Established in the late 1800s, and located near Montreal, St. Jude has a population of around 1,100.
CBC News has an aerial photograph of the area affected by the landslides and sinkholes. CBC news said the community was alerted to the sinkholes after a driver's vehicle partly fell into a sinkhole.
Globaltv reported experts had assessed the stability of the sinkhole, and while not deemed settled, rescuers have been allowed to try again. The sinkhole is described as being approximately 1 kilometer long, 10 meters deep and 500 meters wide, giving the go-ahead for rescuers to try to reach the family again.
The incident has shaken up the village. People are concerned that the sinkhole might become larger. There has been no explanation provided for the appearance of the sinkhole as yet. Search and rescue dogs will be used to locate the family.
Update May 11, 4:39 pm:
CBC News reports that firefighters have been pumping water out of the house basement, and the search has thus far been fruitless. Water has been in the basement since the house was swept off its foundations.
The Prefontaine family were thought to have been home when the sinkhole opened up, possibly in the basement watching a hockey game. The family dog was found on Tuesday morning. While some reports, such as from AOLNews reports the family had two dogs, other reports, such as the this from the National Post state the rescued dog was not in the house at the time the sinkhole formed.
The Montreal Gazette has posted a photo gallery.
The Atlas of Canada states that glaciomarine sediments are susceptible to land movements, such as landslides and sinkholes. There are deposits in Quebec of a clay called Leda Clay, and this material is sensitive to movement. However, it is not yet known if Leda Clay played a role in the formation of the sinkhole. A blue clay is common in the area, and area residents report that earth movements of a much smaller scale are common.
All reports state that the earth is still moving, and firefighters had to abandon their search of the house because of the continued movement.
Update May 11, 2010, 9:10 pm
The Globe & Mail reports that the Prefontaine family was found, but two of the family are dead. Authorities have not said who perished and who survived.
Update May 11, 2010, 9:50 pm
The National Post is reporting that all four members of the Prefontaine household have died after their house was subsumed by a sinkhole.
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