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Tel Aviv highway exit stays closed amid groundwater concerns near sinkhole

Off-ramp and surrounding areas will remain shut until at least Wednesday to allow for additional testing; motorists continue to face delays

A sinkhole on the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv, September 17, 2022. (Ayalon Highway)
A sinkhole on the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv, September 17, 2022. (Ayalon Highway)

Authorities said Tuesday that a Tel Aviv highway exit shuttered over the weekend following the emergence of a large sinkhole will remain closed for at least another day.

The Hashalom Interchange exit had initially been set to reopen Tuesday, after the 15-meter-deep (50-foot) hole was filled in.

Sinkholes can occur when water flowing underground creates cavities that eventually collapse. Officials explained that the continued presence of groundwater could present a danger of another collapse, warranting further investigation into the stability of the ground before traffic can resume.

Additional closures were expected in the area overnight to allow authorities to conduct further testing.

The sinkhole, which opened on Saturday afternoon, did not cause any injuries despite having occurred on a busy highway. It was allegedly caused by construction work on the nearby Azrieli Spiral Tower, which is slated to become Tel Aviv’s second-tallest building.

The highway section was closed on Saturday. By Sunday it had reopened except for the exit, but motorists driving into the city faced traffic delays, and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli encouraged those who could work from home to do so.

Workers at the site where a large sinkhole opened on the main highway in Tel Aviv, on September 17, 2022 in Tel Aviv. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Solel Boneh building company, responsible for excavation and foundational work for Azrieli Group’s tower, said Sunday that the hole was “a technical failure.”

The Ayalon Highway is built over the channel of the Ayalon Stream, putting it at a higher risk for sinkholes.

While sinkholes are relatively rare in the center of the country, a man was killed in July when a sinkhole opened underneath a swimming pool during a party at a home in the central town of Karmei Yosef.

Sinkholes have also opened in the Dead Sea region as the water recedes as a result of human activity, as well as climate change.

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