Sinkholes just sounds so scary. And everytime I see one, it's as if apocalypse is near. The latest, is in the city of Berezniki, Russia. "In the West," the New York Times explains, "mines are usually located far from populous areas, to reduce the risks of sinkholes to homes and other buildings.

Berezniki, a city of 154,000 that began as a labor camp, was built directly over the mine-a legacy of the Soviet policy of placing camps within marching distance of work areas."

With collapsing salt pillars and widespread erosion in the derelict mines below the city, Berezniki is thus "afflicted by sinkholes, yawning chasms hundreds of feet deep that can open at a moment's notice."

The city has responded with "24-hour video surveillance."

On a screen in the command center late last year, one such hole appeared as a small dark spot in a snowy field in the predawn hours, immediately threatening to suck in a building, a road and a gas station. "I looked and said, 'Wow, a hole is forming,'" recalled Olga V. Chekhova, an emergency services worker who monitors the video... While scientists have so far successfully predicted each sinkhole, the chasms can open with astonishing speed. On Dec. 4, as Ms. Chekhova watched the dark spot on her screen expand, witnesses began calling an emergency number for reporting sinkholes. They had heard a loud swooshing noise.

The town wants to fight holes with science, although your first reaction would be to jet the hell out of there as fast as you can. The sensors include a set of high tech monitors which include video surveillance system, seismic sensors, regular serveys and satellite monitoring of the changes in altitude of roofs, sidewalks and streets.

Would these measures be enough to prevent people from suffering from it? Probably not. But its good to have a prevention / warning system ahead.

"In my view, we need to move the entire town," one of the residents says, with what seems like obvious melancholy. He's not reaching for a sketchbook or planning robotic future cities on stilts. "Every house has cracks."

[BLDGBLOG. Images: Via English Russia]