A Narco Sinkhole Swallowed a Guy Sleeping on His Couch. (He’s Fine.)

An abandoned drug-smuggling tunnel that ran underneath a house caused the floor to give way, swallowing a man who was snoozing on his couch.
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Martín Ríos was asleep on the couch in a house in Culiacan, Sinaloa when the floor gave way and he dropped ten feet into a narco-tunnel beneath. Photo: Ernesto Martinez for VICE World News.

A man who was sleeping on his couch in the northern Mexican city of Culiacán was swallowed by a sinkhole that collapsed into a narco-tunnel beneath his house. 

Martín Ríos, 26, was asleep in the capital city of the state of Sinaloa when he was awakened by a loud noise at around 4 a.m. on May 10. His mother and two cousins ran to the living room to find Ríos, the couch, and a small table at the bottom of a hole that opened up into a tunnel, probably built by members of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel that controls the city.

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“I thought I was dreaming. Like when you dream that you are falling, but this time I wasn’t dreaming,” Ríos told VICE World News. 

The couch he was lying on dropped from a height of around 10 feet, but he sustained only minor injuries. 

The sinkhole opened because a tunnel built by drug traffickers some 10 years ago in a nearby house was never properly closed up or filled in, according to local news reports. The passageway ran underneath at least eight houses, some of which also suffered damage, according to the neighbors. 

“We didn’t know there was a tunnel below us,” Ríos said. “I remember that when I was a teenager, the police came to that house because they found drugs or something like that, but they never said anything about a tunnel.”

Neighbors from a nearby house were also shocked to learn that the tunnel went under their mango tree. Two years ago, a sinkhole appeared at the base of the tree.

The tunnel is in the Jardines de Humaya neighborhood, near the popular graveyard where many of Mexico’s most famous narcos are buried under luxury tombs.  

Locals told VICE World News that when the tunnel became visible two years ago, the authorities promised to fill it in to stop it from collapsing, and to help with reparations to the families affected. 

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Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador reacted to the news of the narco sinkhole last week and said the government would look into the case and for those responsible for the accident. 

The house under which the tunnel was constructed is the property of the Institute to Return the Stolen to the People, an official program aiming to reuse properties seized over to criminals. 

The Sinaloa Cartel is famous for its use of tunnels, both for smuggling drugs and for enabling some of its greatest escapes. In 2015, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán—one of the original founders of the cartel—escaped a maximum security prison in Mexico using a tunnel that connected to his shower. In 2019, he escaped again from a raid on one of his houses by police and the army in Sinaloa via a tunnel before being captured for the third and last time. 

In March 2020, U.S. agents found $30 million worth of drugs in a 2,000 feet long tunnel in San Diego. Tunnels dug by drug-trafficking organizations that run underneath the U.S.-Mexico border are frequently uncovered by U.S law enforcement.