A pensioner has been left "crying herself to sleep" after a sinkhole opened up across her Swanley garden, swallowing her mobility scooter.

The massive void, north Kent's fifth in a year, appeared in Oliver Road in the early hours of Thursday morning, measuring five or six metres in diameter and around three metres deep.

Two sheds fell into the hole, one of which contained, among other things, a mobility scooter - the only means of independence for 65-year-old Carole Kent, who is disabled.

The root of the problem is thought to be a leaking drainage pipe, which resulted in water saturating the ground, causing it to give way.

Despite seeking help from Sevenoaks District Council, Thames Water and the Environment Agency, Mrs Kent and her elderly neighbours, 78-year-old Joseph Hutchens and wife Barbara, 75, have not been able to get the assistance they need.

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The hole has caused a number of additional problems, including the leaking of raw sewage after a man hole was damaged.

Mrs Kent's son, Russell Kent, 40, told News Shopper: "My mum has been crying herself to sleep. She's really worried - I just want some help and no one's helping.

"She's had a tough time of it, she's lost her husband and she suffers from arthritis and had a knee replacement operation which went wrong, which means she has a lot of trouble getting out the house.

"And after this happened she's been in bits.

"It's going on and on and we're not getting anywhere."

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Mr Kent said, with the loss of her husband and deteriorating health, Mrs Kent did not renew her house insurance meaning the problem may cost her thousands of pounds which she cannot afford.

He added: "I know it might be dangerous but I'm going to get out there and do everything I can.

"I cannot stand to see things like this but I am just a normal bloke from down the street - I don't have the money to help."

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Mr Hutchens said: "It is terrible. We had two sheds and they have both disappeared down the hole.

"We contacted the council and they just said 'it is private land, it is nothing to do with us'. 

"The main problem is for our next door neighbour, she cannot get out of her house at all.

"We are just frightened our houses are going to slip down it."

Anyone who can help is asked to call Russell Kent on 07817 599 551.

Sinkholes and deneholes in north Kent

The Oliver Road sinkhole is one of a number of sinkholes and deneholes to open up across the north Kent region in recent years.

As recently as Monday, a sinkhole opened up in the middle of Warwick Road in Sidcup and threatened to swallow up a bin lorry.

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Sinkhole in Wawrick Road, Sidcup

Meanwhile in Northfleet earlier this month a hole to one side of Lawrance Square shops in Coldharbour caused businesses to close and residents to be evacuated.

And last month after a 10-metre denehole opened up in a family's garden in Milton Hall Road, Gravesend.

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Denehole in Milton Hall Road, Gravesend

Elsewhere, last summer a denehole opened up in a field behind St Paul's Cray Hill Park in St Paul's Cray, while last February a woman from Holmesdale Grove, Barnehurst, paid out £10,000 to have a giant sinkhole - the size of a double decker bus - filled in her garden.

What causes sinkholes?

According to Dr Vanessa Banks, Team Leader Shallow Geohazards and Risks and the British Geological Survey, the ground across Kent is comprised of a layer of sand above a layer of chalk.

The layer of sand is thinning to the west, and thicker to the east.

Sinkholes can occur for a number of reasons, but the cause of sinkholes in Kent is generally where a thin covering of loose superficial material - sand - covers soluble rock - chalk - beneath. 

The sandy material will tend to gradually slump into the fissures, slowly creating a sinkhole over time - a process that can be sped up by the presence of water.

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Sinkhole in Holmesdale Grove, Barnehurst

What causes deneholes?

Deneholes are caused by man-made structures.

In Kent, these are often medieval chalk extraction pits - characteristically comprised of a narrow shaft with a number of chambers radiating from the base. 

The depth of the features reflects the depth of the underlying chalk bedrock. The shaft width is commonly in the order of 2 or 3 m, widening out into galleries at depth.