Large Sinkhole Opens Up in Florida Neighborhood

Rescue workers respond to sinkhole in town near St. Petersburg.

Residents of a Florida neighborhood were evacuated early Thursday after a large sinkhole opened up in a backyard.

Rescue workers responded around 6 a.m. to the 1100 block of Robmar Road in Dunedin, near St. Petersburg, according to WFLA.

Dunedin Fire Rescue officials said the sinkhole was about 45 feet wide and 30 feet deep. Officials said the sinkhole was expanding and said the ground near the homes was really soft.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that the ground is so unstable that two homes must be demolished.

Television footage showed that part of a patio had caved in and a boat was on the edge of the hole. Tampa area television stations reported that a neighboring pool appeared to have cracks. There were no reported injuries.

No other information was immediately known.

Sinkholes are common in Florida because the peninsula is made up of porous carbonate rocks such as limestone that store and help move water underground. Over time, the rocks can dissolve from an acid created from oxygen in water, creating a void under the limestone roof. When dirt, clay or sand gets too heavy for the limestone roof, it can collapse, creating a sinkhole.

A Tampa-area man was killed in late February after a sinkhole swallowed him in his home. In August, a sinkhole caused the partial collapse of a resort villa near Disney World in Orlando. No one was injuried.

Homeowner Michael Dupre said the family heard a noise that sounded like a sledgehammer pounding on the wall early Thursday morning.

Dupre told Bay News 9 there had been "sinkhole activity" in the area. "After the Seffner sinkhole, we were scared. We've been dealing with our insurance company and finally two days ago, they started working on our house. Now it looks like our house is gone."

As the hole grew, it swallowed the Dupre's porch and new boat. Now, his neighbor's swimming pool and a portion of that home have fallen in as well.

Engineers were called in to assess the homes and ultimately decided both Dupre's home and his neighbor's would be complete losses.

A backhoe was used to pull Dupre's boat from the hole. Crews had feared fuel in the boat could leak into groundwater. Otherwise, the rescue crews are in a holding pattern until the hole stabilizes.

State officials say three counties in the Tampa region are known as "sinkhole alley." Two-thirds of the sinkhole damage claims reported to the state Office of Insurance Regulation between 2006 and 2010 came from Hernando, Hillsborough and Pasco counties. Dunedin is in neighboring Pinellas County.

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Copyright AP - Associated Press
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