An elderly Aussie woman has been seriously injured after she plunged into a ‘geothermal sinkhole’ in New Zealand while walking on a footpath.
The woman, from Perth, was walking with her husband to the Whakarewarewa Village in Rotorua on the North Island when the ground opened up beneath her.
She collapsed, suffering serious injuries, before her husband was able to pull her out.
The woman was rushed to hospital, where she is said to be in a critical condition. The husband suffered less serious injuries.
The hole is thought to be around two metres long, one metre wide and at least one metre deep.
The village, which is a popular attraction as the country’s ‘only living Maori village’, has been closed to the public.
‘Two ambulances and one rapid response unit attended the scene. St John treated then transported one patient in a critical condition and one in a moderate condition to Rotorua Hospital,’ an ambulance spokesperson said.
Village spokesperson Mike Gibbons said the couple were walking along a footpath near the entrance to the village when they fell.
He told 9News the village would be temporarily closed to visitors until a ‘full investigation and assessment had been undertaken by the appropriate authorities, including WorkSafe and the Rotorua Lakes Council’.
‘The area surrounding the fumarole, which is estimated to be 2m long x 1m wide and up to 1m deep… has been closed off to the public, pending the WorkSafe assessment.
‘It appears the ground may have been compromised following the recent heavy rainfall.
‘We are just keeping in communications with them and their families to monitor their wellbeing and recovery from the incident.’
The local Aukaha News said people had reported steam rising from the area about a week ago, prompting authorities to put an orange safety cone in the area.
Whakarewarewa Village is a popular cultural attraction as the country’s ‘only living Maori village’ that offers Maori dance performances, a traditional feast and geothermal features, according to its website.
Rotorua Lakes Council said they were notified of the incident just before 2.15pm on Thursday.
Staff were immediately sent to make the area safe.
‘The area around the hole remains cordoned off and the road is closed, with signage in place,’ the council said.
‘Work to fix the road will start as soon as possible and other roads in the village will be checked as a precaution.
‘Council will stay in touch with its contacts in the village to keep residents updated on progress.’