Sinkhole opens up outside Italian hospital, forcing evacuation of COVID patients

NAPLES, Italy -- A huge sinkhole, about 22,000 square feet across and 66 feet deep, swallowed several cars and forced the evacuation of a Covid ward after opening up in the parking lot of a hospital in southern Italy on Friday.

The incident took place around 6:30 a.m. local time, according to the Ospedale del Mare hospital in Naples. Various vehicles that were parked in the area plummeted into the chasm, the local fire brigade said.

Naples Police told CNN that the "magistrate has appointed a technical expert to ascertain the causes of the collapse, which could be due to water infiltration given the heavy rains of the last two weeks."

"The early-morning hypothesis that it was an explosion has been dismissed. No injured or victims," the police added.

Sinkhole opens up on street in Crenshaw District, nearly swallows family's van
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A large sinkhole opened up on a residential street in the Crenshaw District, nearly swallowing a family's van.

The fire brigade used dog units to check no one was trapped at the site.

As a result of the incident, the hospital evacuated six patients from an asymptomatic Covid ward.

There was also a water outage across the hospital, the press office said. Generators are now supplying it with electricity.

The Ospedale del Mare is where the closely watched Napoli 1 Covid Center was built using containers in a car park during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, which overwhelmed Italy's healthcare system,