Gi­ant sink­hole de­stroys two houses in Florida

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JEN­NIFER KAY AND FREIDA FRISARO LAND O’ LAKES, FLA. —

A sink­hole that started out the size of a small swim­ming pool and con­tin­ued to grow in Florida swal­lowed a boat, de­stroyed two homes and prompted of­fi­cials to evac­u­ate about a dozen homes Fri­day.

Dra­matic video showed the home in Land O’ Lakes, north of Tampa in Pasco County, col­laps­ing into the hole Fri­day morn­ing.

It quickly en­gulfed one home and a boat and then con­sumed about 80 per cent of an­other home, said Kevin Guthrie, Pasco County’s as­sis­tant county ad­min­is­tra­tor for pub­lic safety.

By Fri­day after­noon, the hole stretched up to 75 me­tres wide and 15 me­tres deep, and threat­ened to dam­age a third home, Guthrie said.

Pasco County Fire Chief Shawn Whited told re­porters that no one was home when crews re­sponded to a call about a “de­pres­sion” un­der a boat in the back­yard of a house in Lake Pad­gett Es­tates in Land O’Lakes. Within min­utes, he said, “the hole opened up” and the boat fell in.

Fire­fight­ers were able to get two dogs out of the home and re­trieve some be­long­ings be­fore the first home started col­laps­ing into the quickly ex­pand­ing hole. No in­juries have been re­ported. Sher­iff Chris Nocco said that within roughly nine me­tres of the sink­hole, the ground was soft un­der­foot and felt like it was mov­ing.

“Walk­ing down the street, you can see in peo­ple’s eyes the anx­i­ety level. They’re fear­ful,” Nocco said.

Eleven homes were evac­u­ated, in­clud­ing the two de­stroyed. County prop­erty records show there was a sink­hole at the prop­erty where the first house was swal­lowed up, and that it had been sta­bi­lized in 2014. The home was sold in 2015, ac­cord­ing to records. Mes­sages left for its owner were not im­me­di­ately re­turned Fri­day.

Sink­holes are sta­bi­lized by bor­ing holes into the ground and in­ject­ing con­crete.

Records also show a sink­hole was sta­bi­lized at the partly de­stroyed home in 2007. Two sis­ters rent­ing that home with four other fam­ily mem­bers said they had left the house early Fri­day and re­turned to see their neigh­bour’s home fall­ing into the sink­hole.

The Tampa Bay Times re­ported that Edilia and Theresa Villa and their rel­a­tives had time to re­trieve im­por­tant doc­u­ments and six dogs from their house be­fore of­fi­cials de­clared it un­safe. Theresa Villa’s 15year-old daugh­ter, Thalia Chap­man, told the news­pa­per the fam­ily moved into the home af­ter ar­riv­ing from Cuba about a decade ago.

Guthrie said he was con­cerned that if the sink­hole con­tin­ued to grow, it would dam­age sep­tic tanks that could pol­lute a nearby lake.

LUIS SAN­TANA, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A sink­hole that started out the size of a small swim­ming pool swal­lowed a home in Florida and se­verely dam­aged an­other.

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