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Residents have been evacuated after a 25ft crater swallowed up part of a house in an historic market town dubbed the Sinkhole Capital of Britain.

The house is on the brink of collapse after a giant chasm appeared underneath the property in Magdalen’s Close in Ripon, North Yorkshire.

The owner of the detached property, Peter Cunningham, came home from work to find the extension of his home was coming away from the main house after a 25ft crater appeared under his home.

He rang the fire brigade at around 5.40pm on Monday, who then came out to their house and rescued their dog.

Mr Cunningham, who runs local taxi firm P&P Taxis, said he was devastated by the collapse.

Yesterday the property was continuing to move, with local residents expecting the house to collapse completely.

Two properties close by were evacuated as a precaution.

Social worker Debbie Carter, 47, was told to leave her house at around 6.30pm.

She said: “I only moved in to the house last week and this happens. I wasn’t scared because I was sure the authorities were doing all they could to keep us safe, however, I am worried about the house."

But the fact it has happened doesn’t come as much of a surprise to the locals in Ripon, as the city is known to them as the sinkhole capital of Britain, as a large part of the city is built on gypsum deposits.

Gypsum is a soft material that dissolves much quicker than the surrounding limestone – particularly after persistent heavy rainfall. The latest incident in the town - which opened up on Monday evening – is believed to have been caused by a gypsum fault.

A giant 36ft-wide and 46ft-deep hole that first appeared in 1834, and remains open to this day, is said to have inspired the rabbit hole in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

On April 23, 1997, a sinkhole formed near the same site measuring 32ft-wide and 19ft-deep, and destroyed four garages as well as seriously damaging two nearby houses.