"It's my first home, I worked hard for that. I've been a single parent and I've slogged my guts out to pay that mortgage so I had something to leave the kids."

Bernie Scanlon could do nothing but watch as two homes beside hers collapsed into a sinkhole in the road.

The night before, a car was 'swallowed' by the gaping crater on Walmer Street in Abbey Hey, Gorton.

Although her immediate neighbours were evacuated from their houses, Bernie claims she wasn't told to leave her home, which she says started buckling. The walls, she said, were beginning to crack.

The 56-year-old mum stayed in her house while officials reviewed the row of terraces.

As she nervously waited - trying to gather her possessions in case she had to leave - the home she shares with her son Darren began to crumble around her.

Fronts of two houses crashed into the streets. Other properties either side - including Bernie's - have been left badly damaged.

She thinks her home might have to be bulldozed.

Bernie's home is on the immediate right-hand side of the two collapsed homes

"I was inside my house when it started to go," Bernie told the Manchester Evening News .

"I was inside at the back of my house when I heard the front of the other two houses go.

"I ran to the front window and they were like 'get out, get out!'

"I ran to my front door and couldn't open it because it had obviously been affected by the collapse, so I ran through the back room.

"I was going to throw a few bits in a bag, but then my ceiling started to go. All the plaster started splitting off the walls and I could hear all these cracks.

"I just had to run out in the clothes I'm standing in and my handbag. It was scary.

"It was a split-second decision to leave. I thought 'if I don't get out now, I'm not getting out'.

"I ran out of my back gate and people were there saying 'oh, here she is', so they must have been waiting for me to come out.

"Within minutes, my house started to split, the masonry split, the walls separated from the window.

"We've lost everything, me and my son.

"If we can't get back in to get a few bits, we've got nothing."

The sinkhole 'appears to be getting bigger', according to residents

Bernie says she got out of her home 'with minutes to spare'.

She added: "When the sinkhole happened on Wednesday night, there was a lot of activity going on - firefighters, United Utilities, what looked like a few council workers there, but I wasn't too sure.

"The back end of the car ended up in the sinkhole, it was full of water. It took them hours to move the car, never mind coming to start draining the water.

"All throughout the night, they were drilling and digging, whatever else.

"Quarter past seven on Thursday morning, it all stopped.

"That's around when my son got up for work. He'd usually get up at 5am, but he left it a bit later because he'd had no sleep. That's when he noticed our house had got much worse.

The view from Bernie Scanlon's house in Walmer Street as the sinkhole opened

"There was a crack at the top of the right-hand corner of his bedroom leading to his window sill and it was the same in my living room.

"At about 10-ish, I came outside and we could see that the pavement had dipped even more.

"While I was standing there, a man nearly got buried under a ton of rubble, one of the gateposts went while he was standing there.

"I went back in and I started to sort stuff out in case we needed to go. But not long after that, I heard the house start to go. That was about 11-ish.

"As I got out of the house, the plinth above my window split, the glass went through, the masonry sagged a bit more.

"I literally got out with minutes to spare."

Miraculously, nobody was hurt.

Police and fire crews attended on Thursday morning, before United Utilities engineers were called in.

They initially said they were dealing with a 'collapsed sewer'. The company say 'it is not known what caused the sinkhole'.

An investigation is ongoing. It is now believed the sewer has been left badly damaged, but has not collapsed.

The mother and son were left without a place to sleep. They say they were 'left in the dark' for hours.

When Bernie spoke to the M.E.N. at 6pm on Thursday evening, she was still waiting to find out where they would be sleeping.

"It's traumatic enough losing everything you've got, watching your house falling down," she added.

"Nearly 26 years we've been in that house."

A car was the first victim of the sinkhole

In total, 17 homes were evacuated, with residents being moved into a hotel.

All hard-working Bernie has been left with are the memories over more than two decades spent in a home which might have to be demolished.

"I have lots of memories in that house - all my photos, all my mum's stuff.

"I'm not bothered about clothes, TVs, they can be replaced. It's the sentimental stuff.

"It's everything. All my personal things. It's my life. I've literally run out of the house in what I've got on and my handbag.

The sinkhole after a car was dragged out of it on Wednesday night

"It was my first home, I worked hard for that, I've been a single parent and I've slogged my guts out to pay that mortgage so I had something to leave the kids.

"I finished work three years ago because of spinal problems, I've got arthritis everywhere. My doctor told me that my body was telling me to give up.

"I was in retail, I've been a renal clinical support worker, I've been an accountant, I managed a business for 10 years - I've done a few jobs to make it work.

"It's a real sad day to see it all end like this - I was crying at the sight of it."

Teams of United Utilities staff, council workers and emergency services have been investigating the sinkhole

It came after a particularly difficult year for the mother and son.

Bernie said: "I haven't got any insurance. My son was put out of work because of Covid-19 and I had to cancel it because I couldn't afford it, I was keeping him.

"He was self-employed and he couldn't get any help. Right at the start of lockdown, he was working construction but contracts were lost, the whole team had to go.

"All last year, I had to take care of him because he had no work, it was really hard. It was very hard to string out the money.

"Last year was a nightmare, this year's starting off nice, isn't it?

"We're all in the same boat.

The scene just before the fronts of the two homes in Walmer Street collapsed

"We've got some good neighbours, good community spirit there. It was our neighbours that have been bringing us cups of tea, the chippy man came and said if we're hungry he can sort us out.

"At least I'm still here, I could have been stuck inside. At least no one has been hurt, that's the main thing."

A spokesperson for United Utilities said: "The evacuations were managed by the Fire Service with Manchester City Council Buildings Control engineers. Four houses were evacuated on Wednesday night and a further 13 on Thursday as the situation developed.

"United Utilities was not responsible for the evacuations and it is not our operatives’ role to give this advice to residents. None of our operatives had the conversation described.

"Our investigations have been making progress and a CCTV survey shows that the sewer in the sinkhole has suffered some damage but has not collapsed.

"We are continuing to work with Manchester City Council to investigate what caused the sinkhole. For the time being the whole site is under the control of Manchester City Council’s Building Control team.

“In the meantime, the most important thing is that the residents are safe and we have been supporting those affected by the evacuations. We have made sure all have access to temporary accommodation and we are making payments to cover inconvenience and meals for example.

"We are in touch with all of the residents and, together with Manchester City Council, we will continue to provide support and updates as the situation becomes clearer. The occupants of the property in question were re-housed in a hotel on Thursday evening and that is where they are staying for now."

Manchester City Council said: "No affected properties were owned by the council.

"One homeless family was affected. We have moved them to alternative accommodation and provided support for them throughout this process."