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Gravesend road has 20ft hole days before Olympic Torch relay
The hole was 20 feet deep - a drop equivalent to the height of a giraffe (giraffe pic: Anna Langova)
CHAOS engulfed Gravesend town centre after a potentially lethal 20-foot hole opened up in the road, just days before the Olympic Torch is due to arrive.
A chasm near the train station in Clive Road was the width of a dustbin lid and a staggering 20 feet deep - a drop equivalent to a two-storey house, or a giraffe.
The collapse is thought to have been caused by a well underneath the road.
Founder of North Kent Disabled Foundation, Danny O’Brien, said he was very worried that someone could have been hurt.
The 65-year-old, who is wheelchair-bound, said: "It could kill you, especially if you are disabled, if it is that deep. There is no doubt about it.
"Blind people especially. You get someone who walks with a stick and they know their way around and they cross where they normally cross and there’s a hole.
"You could have a very serious accident and do yourself a serious injury - you could even get killed."
Gravesham Council leader, Councillor John Burden said he had his "fingers crossed" that a similar problem didn’t strike the torch relay which will pass just yards away on Friday.
Cllr Burden said the hole was a "genuine concern" and indicative of wider issues of the borough’s roads, which are looked after by Kent County Council.
He said: "There is always potential for a hole like this to be dangerous.
"The question is, was the road always being maintained properly in the first place?"
The road - a major route through the middle of town - was closed for two hours from around 2pm on Thursday (July 12), bringing traffic to a standstill, after the hole expanded from the size of a normal pothole.
Cllr Burden praised the work of KCC’s highway services for plugging it quickly, but said more needed to be done to keep the roads in good condition.
He said: "It is a genuine concern. We need to see Kent’s highway services to do more to protect the roads in the borough, because it is not effective.
"You could drive round many of our roads and see they are not properly maintained. Some of the problems are coming home to roost."
The Olympic Torch is due to pass through Gravesend from 9.51am on Friday (July 20) and will travel along New Road and Darnley Road, which are just yards from where the fissure emerged in Clive Road.
Its route has already changed because the heavy convoy - which includes buses and advertising lorries - was judged to be too much for weak railway bridges along Wellington Street and the possible alternative in Peacock Street, less than half a mile from Thursday’s collapse.
Kent County Councillor for Northfleet and Gravesend West, Leslie Christie said: "Obviously I was concerned when it happened. The area gets a lot of these holes.
"It is a worrying thing, how many more are there?"
KCC highways and transportation district manager for Gravesham, Alan Casson, said: "We were alerted to a pothole in Clive Road at around 12pm on Thursday.
"Highways officers visited the site and discovered that the pothole had been caused by an old, uncharted well.
"The road was closed by Kent Police, and by 4pm that day it was repaired and the road re-opened.
"This is a busy road in the heart of Gravesend. We will be closely monitoring the current fix to see whether further work is required, and if so, making sure disruption is kept to an absolute minimum."
For live updates on the torch relay, visit newsshopper.co.uk/olympics
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