Sinkhole opens up in Florida, swallows portions of 2 homes

Residents in Florida evacuated from a neighborhood Thursday after a sinkhole opened up, swallowing parts of two homes that engineers say will have to be destroyed.

The sinkhole has expanded in size since it was first reported and it is now 70-feet wide and 53-feet deep, according to Fox 13. It also has damaged a pool and a boat.

"It started swallowing everything around it. We were home. We were sleeping. My daughter woke us up," homeowner Michael Dupre said, noting that the ordeal began around 5:15 a.m. local time and sounded like a sledgehammer pounding on a wall.

There were no reports of injuries.

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

"We grabbed only the important stuff," Dupre told Fox 13 after he evacuated his home. "Insurance information – stuff like that. You don't really think about this kind of stuff happening."

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.

Dupre said he had been concerned about a sinkhole opening up on his property and had brought in a company to pour grout into his home’s foundation the past two days, according to The Associated Press.

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.

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.

On Feb. 28, Jeffrey Bush died when a sinkhole opened under his bedroom in Seffner, Fla., near Tampa. His body was never recovered. In August, sections of a building at a resort near Orlando collapsed into a sinkhole. No one was injured in that incident.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.