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Bosnians panic as sinkhole swallows village pond

By Amel Emric

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 26 2013 6:25 a.m. MST

In this Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 photo, Ekrem Keramovic stands near a huge sinkhole in the village of Sanica, Bosnia. Only weeks ago, the spot was a pond full of fish and floating green algae, lined with old willow and plum trees, and a grass field where cattle used to peacefully graze. The vanishing pond was some 20-meters in diameter and about 10-meters deep. Now, the "abyss," as the villagers named the dry sinkhole, is some 50-meters wide and 30-meters deep. Scientists say it is not an uncommon occurrence that ponds and small lakes disappear. They say it could be caused by drying underground waters, or changes in soil drainage due to agricultural irrigation.

Amel Emric, Associated Press

SANICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Just outside the rustic village, children fished in a tranquil pond bobbing with green algae and lined with willow trees, as cattle grazed nearby.

Now, Rezak Motanic gazes in disbelief down a gigantic moonlike crater where the pond used to be. It's like something from a science fiction movie: a sinkhole swallowed the water, the fish and even nearby trees.

"I sat here only a day before it happened, sipping plum brandy," Cemal Hasan said. "And then, there was panic. Fish were jumping out, and a big plum tree was pulled down like someone yanked it with a hook."

The villagers of this remote northwestern Bosnian village have been in shock since the pond vanished two weeks ago.

Their pond was some 20 meters (yards) in diameter and about eight meters deep. Now, the "abyss," as the villagers have dubbed the crater, is some 50 meters wide and 30 meters deep — and growing.

Scientists say it is not uncommon that ponds and small lakes suddenly disappear. They say it could be caused by drying underground water currents, or changes in soil drainage due to irrigation.

The Sanica villagers, however, are having none of the scientific explanations.

"It could have been a giant cave that opened its doors," offered Milanko Skrbic. "Or a volcano."

Another popular theory — one that experts dismiss along with the others proposed by townsfolk — is that fish could have triggered the explosion of one of several World War II German bombs believed to have been thrown into the pond by an old woman after the war.

"She herself died when one of the bombs exploded in her arms," Cemal Hasan said as he stood on the edge of the "abyss."

Another spooky explanation: The owner of the pond took it with him when he died about a month ago.

"Only days before Hasan passed away he said: 'I'll take everything with me when I die.' And that's what he did," Motanic said. "His daughter saw him walk on the lake the night he died."

Husein Nanic said it could be a sign that the end is nigh: "All sort of miracles happen before the doomsday," he said.

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Associated Press writer Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.

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