Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sinkholes Discovered in the Dead Sea

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The Dead Sea is famous for its healing remedies and unique minerals. But in recent years a new phenomena has appeared - gigantic sinkholes are appearing along the sea's west coast. Our Israeli team spoke with a researcher who fell into one of those holes.

The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth.

It attracts tourists from all over the world, who enjoy its healing waters.

Industries also utilize its minerals. But in recent years, deep holes began forming along its west coast.

In Israeli terminology, they are named "Sinkholes," and they can swallow up roads, vehicles and even humans.

We went out to examine this phenomenon, and met a geologist who fell into a sinkhole while he was examining it.

]Eli Raz, Geologist, Ein-Gedi]:
"I was informed that new sinkholes were spotted somewhere. I went to document it and discovered a small sinkhole... while documenting it, it grew larger and drew me in."

So what does it feel like to be swallowed by the earth?

]Eli Raz, Geologist, Ein-Gedi]:
"I fell into a massive landslide, which kept me on one side, but the other side was burying me. The first thing I recall was striving to get out. It was pitch dark and I couldn't see anything. I felt as though there was a heavy rock on my head. It was a struggle which lasted for hours, trying to dig my way out; and at one point I managed to climb out of the fall, and from that moment onwards, the anxiety began."

Raz sat in the depth of the hole for 14 long hours. He was unable to move, and unable to climb upwards.

]Eli Raz, Geologist, Ein-Gedi]:
"The biggest problem was that I was afraid to move much, because everything was very fragile, and each movement could have aroused a new landslide".

Then, Raz found a solution for his anxieties -- he began writing.

]Eli Raz, Geologist, Ein-Gedi]:
"Since occasionally there were more landslides, I felt anxious. I found a postcard in my bag, and I also had all my equipment along with me in my backpack, including a pen, so I decided I was going to write a farewell letter."

Writing on the postcard helped him to relax. In his bag there was also a roll of toilet paper, and he kept on writing during all these long hours in the pit.

]Eli Raz, Geologist, Ein-Gedi]:
"Since writing felt good, I decided to keep writing. I found a roll of toilet paper in my backpack, so I took it out and it lasted until the evening".

In addition to writing, Raz made a conscious decision to keep thinking positively all along, and that soothed his anxieties.

]Eli Raz, Geologist, Ein-Gedi]:
"Because otherwise I would be mentally lost, and the first moments were extremely difficult -- moments of a very deep, existential anxiety."

After we learned about his downfall in the sinkhole, we tried to understand how sinkholes are created.

Raz claims that rivers, including the Jordan River, that used to flow into the Dead Sea -- are being shifted from their courses for various reasons.

The heavy industry in the area also evaporates the sea.

As a result, the sea level drops about 1 meter per year. This eventually leads to the creation of sinkholes.

]Eli Raz, Geologist, Ein-Gedi]:
"The drop in the level of water in the Dead Sea is a result of humans interfering with the water system. The water levels are dropping rapidly, something which probably never existed in natural conditions. Now the systems are imbalanced so there are reactions such as this one, with infrastructures collapsing."

The appearance of sinkholes poses a very concrete danger -- A danger for lives, for property and for the economy.

]Eli Raz, Geologist, Ein-Gedi]:
"Sinkholes are dangerous for people. There are people who fell into sinkholes, including myself, but not only me. A car or a bus might also fall into a sinkhole."

The Sinkholes have severely harmed the economy in the Dead Sea area. In such a place, it is impossible to cultivate any agricultural products, or have tourism.

]Eli Raz, Geologist, Ein-Gedi]:
"It harmed the agriculture, and most of the palm plantations in Ein-Gedi had to be abandoned... there was also a huge tourism project on the beach here, and a lot of money was invested here, but we had to abandon it."

We tried to keep optimistic. Is the situation reversible? Is it possible to repair the Dead Sea and its surroundings?

]Eli Raz, Geologist, Ein-Gedi]:
"You picture a hypothetical situation in which all consumers who use water from the Dead Sea and the Jordan River -- will give up their water. This sounds very unlikely."

Reporter:Israela Yablonka Photographer:Anat Markram
NTD News, Israel

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