The government of China’s northern city of Tianjin announced Thursday it has evacuated 3,899 of its residents because ominous cracks appeared in the ground near three high-rise apartment buildings.
Tianjin’s municipal government described the situation as “very rare,” a “sudden geological disaster” that might have been caused by previously undetected cavities thousands of feet beneath the city.
City officials said the problem could have been exacerbated by drilling for geothermal wells near the city. According to the International Geothermal Association, there are over 150 wells around Tianjin, which has long been presented as a showcase for the possibilities of geothermal energy and heating. The thermal field surrounding Tianjin covers almost 5,500 square miles, producing significant amounts of water for agriculture and human consumption in addition to heating.
Bloomberg News reported the cracks are located in the Jinnan district of the city, in an area developed by a company called Country Garden.