Mysterious, huge crack forms overnight in triplexes' foundation; city says climate's to blame

On Thanksgiving morning, a group of homeowners in Montreal's east end woke up to a mystery, and a devastating realization.

The earth had somehow shifted, seemingly overnight, around their row of five triplexes, leaving a huge crack in the foundation.

"We can literally put our hands in," said Alison Merchant, one resident.

The "really big" crack runs from one end of the row to the other, creating extensive damage on the way, and huge costs to repair.

The neighbours first suspected an earthquake, but none had been reported. Then Justin Addison, another homeowner, spoke to experts who said the cause could be climate change, he said.

Or rather, they said it was climate change -- in the form of deeply drying clay soil under the building -- exacerbated by excessive vibrations in the ground because of several nearby construction projects.

Homeowners elsewhere in the city should beware, at least possible. In a statement, the City of Montreal echoed the expert opinions Addison found, telling CTV it expects more incidents like this one as climate change brings periods of drought, allowing the earth to dry more than it used to.

But another civil engineering professor said that may be too simplistic an explanation.

"There are many ways to explain it, but drying... doesn't really happen all of a sudden," said Adel Hanna, a Concordia professor.

"It doesn't happen overnight."

He said something would have had to make the soil beneath the building dry quickly in order to create that kind of crack.

Though the mystery isn't really solved, Addison said that he'd like the city to delve into it more, especially since it said it does predict climate-related building damage will happen more often.

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