Despite hundreds of years of research into how the Earth works, it still manages to surprise us fairly often. Sometimes these surprises are interesting and beneficial to life, other times though, they catch us off guard with devastating consequences.

What recently happened in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz falls into the latter category.

For hundreds of years, the Atoyac River has been a vital part of life for residents of Veracruz. But earlier this month, the entire body of water literally disappeared overnight.

It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, but here are before and after photos of the river.

The culprit? A large hole in the riverbed. On Sunday night, residents said they heard a large cracking sound. In the morning, they found the river gone and quickly pieced together what happened.

“On Monday, we realized that water had stopped flowing, so we went to investigate and found a hole that prevented the river from running within its banks,” said one local resident.

Government investigators have put the blame on geology. Historically, the area near the river has been known for its unstable geological structure. They say that the limestone bedrock shifted to cause the crack. Why it shifted is still being investigated.

(via Mysterious Universe)

With the river gone, the fish locals used to depend on have vanished too. Now they’re reporting that other animals are fleeing the area as well. As of this writing, there is no viable plan to bring back the Atoyac River.

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