Yesterday's sinkhole in Reynosa. Yesterday's sinkhole in Reynosa.

A plague of sinkholes spreads across Mexico

From Tamaulipas to Oaxaca, the roads are caving in

It’s not just the rainy season but the sinkhole season. From Tamaulipas to Estado de México, from Sonora to Oaxaca, the roads are caving in.

Poor construction, lack of resources, heavy rain and corruption are among the causes blamed for the proliferation of gaping holes in roadways, the worst of which took two lives on the Mexico City-Cuernavaca highway last week.

That was preceded by a sinkhole noteworthy for its size and the fact that it swallowed a city of Veracruz transit bus.

And several more have followed.

A concrete truck was a victim yesterday when it was half swallowed on Calle Río San Juan in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.

“The pavement could not withstand the truck’s weight and gave in . . . [the area] had been damaged by several flaws in the sewage system built 40 years ago,” said the director of the local water department.

Over a year ago, cracks had appeared in the area but presumably were later repaired.

Now there’s a hole measuring 15 meters in length by six meters deep that will cost an estimated 1.5 million pesos (just under US $86,000) to repair.

Residents of the Fuentes Sección Lomas neighborhood say they have reported several problems with the road in the past. At least one is hoping the government will come through with money for repairs.

“They say they have enough resources to fix over 100 flaws detected in different parts of the city, but I won’t believe it until I see it,” the resident said.

Governor Francisco Javier García Cabeza de Vaca announced during his last visit to the city that over 380 million pesos would be allocated to upgrading and building roads.

Corruption has been cited by another politician as a possible reason for the sinkhole.

A member of the state Congress has demanded an investigation into the firm that built the road, charging that drainage conditions should have been assessed first, and that the firm might have engaged in acts of corruption.

At the other end of the country, a new highway that was due to be inaugurated soon will require some repairs first after part of it collapsed under the weight of a truck, stirring indignation among residents who want a thorough investigation.

A private firm was contracted by the federal Communications and Transportation Secretariat (SCT) to carry out the work on the Pinotepa Nacional-Corralero highway in the coastal region of Oaxaca.

But one report hints at another corruption-tainted sinkhole.

Oaxaca contractors cried foul last year after a senior official at the SCT canceled a tender for 48.4 million pesos of public works projects, one of which was the Pinotepa highway.

The projects were given instead to a contractor linked to the SCT official and the secretariat’s Oaxaca representative.

In Sonora, meanwhile, heavy rains have spawned several potholes, some of which have grown to become sinkholes.

Transit authorities in Hermosillo have counted six cases of sinking ground and the appearance of sinkholes in the same number of neighborhoods.

A week ago, a truck carrying sand encountered soft ground, became stuck and dumped part of its load on an adjacent car.

Three days later, a bus fell into a large pothole and its passengers had to get off and push it out. Later that day, two more vehicles fell into what by then was a sinkhole.

Neighbors of the area fear there is running water below them and that the sinking of the ground could damage their homes. One resident has reported sewage spilling from his toilet.

The manager of the local water department told the newspaper El Universal that problems have been reported in 40% of Hermosillo’s sewage and drainage system, a network of 2,500 kilometers of pipe, 240 kilometers of which are to be repaired “in the next few months.”

Source: El Universal (sp), Reforma (sp)

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