Officials say they likely won't be able to remove the backhoe that fell into a sinkhole in downtown Montreal until tomorrow at the earliest.
The hole opened up at at about 9 a.m. ET at the intersection of Guy and Ste-Catherine streets. It measures about eight metres long, five metres across, and three metres deep.
City officials have come up with a plan to remove the vehicle from the hole, and they are waiting for approval for the go-ahead.
A spokeswoman for the Ville-Marie borough, Emilie Miskdjian, says removing the machinery is complicated because there is a gas line nearby. There is also a risk of further cave-ins.
Miskdjian says the borough has submitted a recovery plan to Quebec's workplace health and safety authority.
Traffic is blocked on Guy Street between René-Lévesque and Maisonneuve boulevards, as well as on Ste-Catherine between St-Mathieu and Guy streets.
Collapse may be linked to faulty sewer pipe
Fraser Butler was parking his car on Guy Street this morning to get a coffee when the road collapsed. He said he saw the driver climb out of the backhoe and he didn't appear injured.
"I was scared. This is not the first time we get sinkholes like this in Montreal. Is it safe?"
In June 2012, a sinkhole shut down a portion of St-Mathieu Street near Ste-Catherine, just a block away.
A month before that, a four-metre square sinkhole opened up on Sherbrooke Street, prompting a traffic detour on a busy thoroughfare that lasted nearly a month.
The latest road collapse may be linked to a faulty city sewer pipe.
'I was scared. This is not the first time we get sinkholes like this in Montreal. Is it safe?' —Witness Fraser Butler
Miskdjian said they received a call over the weekend about a water leak in the same spot.
Crews arrived Monday morning to do repairs and that's when the road gave way.
"We think that the water leak was because of the sewer pipe…it's a broken sewer pipe," she said. "That's what we think, but we will have to do an inspection to determine the cause."
City was warned
The sinkhole is almost directly across from the Faubourg Sainte-Catherine.
Rahman Esmaili, who owns the Sharx pool hall in the Faubourg Sainte-Catherine, said he advised the city about a problem with the sewer more than a week ago, but nothing was done.
"It was pouring in the wall and coming down in the whole street and it smells and all this nonsense — you cannot imagine," he said.
Esmaili said he spoke with the city several times, but he was told there was nothing wrong with the city's pipes.
He said there was significant damage to his business.
'We advised the city for a week about this and they did not do anything.' —Rahman Esmaili, owner of local pool hall
"My insurance were working very hard to figure out a way to stop this water because its damaging us every day — costing me my operation so far," he said. "For a whole week, we didn't have any business down there."
City councillor Richard Deschamps says the workers have been doing their job properly, but there are simply too many infrastructure issues.
"We can't secure every corner that we have in the city," he said.
City officials said they won't know how much repair work needs to be done until after the backhoe is removed. Until then, they don't know how long the street will be closed.