Woman swallowed by sinkhole while hanging out washing

A MELBOURNE woman was swallowed by a watery sinkhole that opened up beneath her feet - as she was hanging out her washing.

The 45-year-old was in her garden when the 2.7m (9ft) deep, 0.6m wide chasm opened up.

She had to swim and float in the deep water as she shouted for help for half an hour. One paramedic said that at one point during her ordeal the woman's head was submerged.

Eventually hearing her cries, neighbours contacted the emergency services, who hauled her out with a rope.

It is believed the woman fell into a disused well.

Operations Officer Paul Carrigg said: "This was a very unusual incident.

"Fortunately the lady has escaped without injury though she was obviously shaken up."

He added: "We have doorknocked all residents in the street and advised them to stay indoors until council engineers investigate further."

A sinkhole is essentially any hole in the ground created by erosion and the drainage of water. They can be just a few feet across or large enough to swallow whole buildings.