A series of cave-ins in a village in the suburbs of Guangzhou caused severe damage to 48 houses last week.
"The land sank piece-by-piece last week, ending in over 40 cave-ins" said Lai Sheng, a resident of Jianling Village in Cheni Town, Guangzhou's Huadu District.
"The accident caused serious clefts and disturbed the foundations of 48 houses, including mine."
"What really frightened us to death was that my neighbour's toilet sank as deep as 2 metres and resulted in a cave as big as 6 metres in diameter."
He said that many of the villagers have moved out of their shaky homes afraid that they will be crushed by a collapse.
Official statistics indicate that the cave-ins affected an area of over 8,000 square metres in the village, with 400 persons affected in various degrees.
Ma Cao, an official with the Huadu District government, said that the local government has moved to help those whose houses were endangered by making temporary residences available.
The government has budgeted 500,000 yuan (US$61,625) to subsidize those who want to find somewhere to live by themselves.
Ma said that the district is using seismic technology to monitor geological changes in area.
Local officials have also consulted experts to find the root cause of the problem.
Experts have not yet discovered the cause of the cave-ins.
However many local residents suspect a nearby stone quarry is to blame.
There were cave-ins in the village last August, but they were less serious.
Huang Zhenguo, a researcher with Guangzhou Geography Research Institute, said that underground limestone caves make the district particularly vulnerable to cave-ins.
Huang said that the district has at least three layers of limestone caves underground, which makes the land sink easily when water underneath is pumped out.
Citing official statistics, the expert said that Guangzhou has suffered from about 200 cave-in accidents in the past 15 years, several of which happened during the city's metro construction.
(China Daily July 4, 2006)