People who live in and near two Quebec City buildings evacuated Thursday after a sinkhole appeared in a nearby parking lot say they've noticed problems with the ground in their neighbourhood for years.

More than 30 people were forced out of their apartments in the Beauport area after a two-metre-wide sinkhole opened up in a rear parking lot on Brideau Street earlier this week.

The Red Cross was on hand to help residents relocate temporarily.

Network of underground caves

The buildings affected are located in an area known as the "Courville Caves," where there is a known network of natural underground caves caused by the flow of the Montmorency River. Unstable ground has been a problem in the past.

 A resident spotted the hole Wednesday and alerted the authorities. 

"I called the city. I thought it was unusual," Mickaël Poulin-Giguère told Radio-Canada.

Two weeks earlier, Poulin-Giguère said he alerted the city after he became increasingly concerned about widening cracks that started to appear on walls and doorways of his building.

"The doors hardly open, and there are cracks in the walls and Gyproc," he said.

Another resident said she was frightened by the shaking she felt in her building on Sunday and Monday.

André Robitaille, who owns the building next door to the two that were evacuated, said he is constantly patching up cracks in the walls and foundation.

"We repair them all the time, because we assume that one day it is going to stop," Robitaille said. Six years ago, Robitaille invested over $100,000 to fill holes under his building's foundations with concrete.

"They were as big as — you can probably put a small car in it," he said.

Robitaille says he has called city officials more than once to tell them there is a problem with the ground.

City engineers were on site Friday to inspect the sinkhole. Robitaille said he's disappointed it took the sinkhole's appearance to get them to act.

The city did not expect to do any rehabilitation work over the weekend.  Meanwhile, the stranded residents were to meet Friday evening to decide their next move.

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