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Monday, August 12, 2013

Sinkhole Gobbles up Part of Florida Resort

CLERMONT, Fla. (AP) — It sounded like a thunderstorm as windows broke and the ground shook, but vacationers who were awakened from their rooms at a villa near Orlando, Fla., soon realized that the building was starting to collapse — parts of it swallowed by a 100-foot sinkhole that also endangered two neighboring resort buildings.
Then, as a part of the leaning building crumbled quickly into the ground, dust shot up around the site, amateur video of the collapse shows ( ).
In one of the adjacent buildings, firefighters and police officers knocking on doors woke up Maggie Moreno of San Antonio. She couldn't fully open the door to her unit.
"It sounded like popcorn," said Moreno, who was visiting with her husband, daughter and two grandchildren. "The building was just snapping."
"It sounded like popcorn," said Moreno, who was visiting with her husband, daughter and two grandchildren. "The building was just snapping."
Luis Perez also was staying at a nearby building. He said he was in his room when the lights went off around 11:30 p.m. He said he was on his way to the front desk to report it when he saw firefighters and police outside.
"I started walking toward where they were at, and you could see the building leaning, and you could see a big crack at the base of the building," said Perez, 54, of New Jersey.
Over the next five hours, sections of the building sank into the ground. Paul Caldwell, the development's president, said the resort gave all affected guests other rooms. Some visitors — many of whom had to leave their wallets, purses and other belongings behind in the quick evacuation — were given cash advances by Summer Bay.
The Red Cross also distributed food, clothing and medicines to vacationers who had lost their belongings in their resort rooms.
There were no signs before Sunday that a sinkhole was developing, Caldwell said. He said the resort underwent geological testing when it was built about 15 years ago, showing the ground to be stable.
Caldwell said he was awaiting further inspections to determine any damage to the second and third buildings. The resort — with condominiums, two-bedroom villas and vacation houses in addition to standard rooms — has about 900 units spread over a large area about 10 miles west of Walt Disney World. It is set on a secluded 64-acre lake.
Problems with sinkholes are ongoing in Florida. They cause millions of dollars in damage in the state annually. On March 1, a sinkhole underneath a house in Seffner, about 60 miles southwest of the Summer Bay Resort, swallowed a man who was in his bed. His body was never recovered.
But such fatalities and injuries are rare, and most sinkholes are small. They are caused by Florida's geology — the state sits on limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water, with a layer of clay on top. The clay is thicker in some locations, making them even more prone to sinkholes.
Last week, Florida received a $1.08 million federal grant to study the state's vulnerability to sinkholes.
Other states sit atop limestone in a similar way, but Florida has additional factors like extreme weather, development, aquifer pumping and construction.
Alma Rodriguez in Clermont contributed to this report.

Sinkhole swallows part of Florida resort villa - Yahoo! News:

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