A TERRIFIED Halesowen dad told how he cheated death by "three seconds" after a huge sinkhole appeared outside his front door.

Harri Chadha leapt in fright when a giant cavern suddenly opened up where he had been standing moments earlier.

Dramatic pictures show the 15ft-wide hole which swallowed up Harri's front garden outside his home in Haden Arch Court on Haden Hill Road.

Halesowen News: The sinkhole has led to families being evacuated The sinkhole has led to families being evacuated (Image: SWNS)

The fashion photographer said: “I must have done something good somewhere because I really should be dead.

"I had just been standing on the path after closing my front door moments before the earth collapsed in on itself.

“Literally three to five seconds earlier and I would have been a goner for certain.

“The sinkhole was 70ft deep, I don’t think they would have ever found my body.”

Harri moved into his leasehold property 13 years ago and is now in temporary rented accommodation.

He added: “I have not even been allowed to go back and collect any essentials, the flat had to be broken into to save our cat, I never thought I’d see it again."

Gas pipes were smashed in the collapse.

Severn Trent Water blame the sinkhole, thought to have been caused by underground sewage pipes collapsing, on building work being carried out without planning permission.

The hole is being filled in with another hole dug to collect water, which is being pumped into a nearby river.

Meanwhile gas and water companies are desperately trying to make the area safe to allow people back in their homes.

Halesowen News: Work is being carried out so that families can return to their homes Work is being carried out so that families can return to their homes (Image: SWNS)

Another resident, who only gave his name as Geoff, said: “I’ve been forced to sleep on a friend’s sofa for more than a month.

“It’s a nightmare because I wasn’t even allowed back home to pick up any of my things.

“I don’t think the place will ever be safe and I just worry about my home being swallowed up.

“There’s no chance of ever being able to sell the place either.”

Residents were initially allowed to stay in their homes after the sinkhole first emerged on November 20.

The next day West Midlands Fire Service and gas officials inspected the site and ordered an immediate evacuation.

Eight residents have not been allowed back to their properties, which are managed by Remus, since the sinkhole appeared.

Since the collapse, eight families have been given financial assistance by Severn Trent – which has not accepted liability - with four still being supported.

Halesowen News: Work being carried out to make homes safe Work being carried out to make homes safe (Image: SWNS)

A spokesman for Severn Trent said: "The sinkhole has appeared due to a damaged sewer pipe, which was built over without the correct build over agreement, meaning the foundations of the building are very close to the pipe.

"This means it will be a complicated and complex repair with access issues, and will take time to complete.

“Severn Trent has stepped in to support the residents of Haden Arch since the end of November.

“Despite Severn Trent not being at fault, and as a gesture of goodwill, we have provided alternative accommodation for some of the residents, as this is clearly a distressing time for everyone, especially over the holidays.”

Remus has been contacted for comment.

Halesowen News: Workers on site Workers on site (Image: SWNS)