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Entries in Sinkhole (12)

Saturday
Jul132013

Boy Rescued from Sand Dune Hole in Critical Condition

ABC 7 Chicago(MICHIGAN CITY, Ind.) -- Rescuers using heavy equipment pulled a young boy from a hole in a large sand dune on an off-limits area of an Indiana beach after more than three hours on Friday, officials said.

The boy, 6, appeared to have vital signs upon being pulled out of the dune. After the rescue, the boy was taken to St. Anthony Hospital in Michigan City, Ind., before being taken via helicopter to the University of Chicago Medical Center. The child is still in the hospital in critical condition on Saturday.

Some officials initially gave the boy’s age as 8.

The boy was walking with his parents along the sand dunes by Lake Michigan from near Mount Baldy, Martin said, when he came across a rotted tree that may have caused some type of sinkhole in the sand dune.

The area where the boy fell was off limits to the public, Rowe said.

The call for help went out at approximately 4:30 p.m. CT, officials said. Rowe said local first responders arrived within about 15 minutes.

Those responders included medical personnel, the Michigan City Fire Department and Michigan City police, Martin said.

As they were digging, the hole became larger, so they called in heavy equipment in to move the sand, Martin added.

Fire department rescuers said that as they were digging they found a soft spot or pocket in the sand at least 11 feet down and saw the boy’s head.

Rescuers were able to lift him out at approximately 8:05 p.m. CT, Martin said.

Laporte County Chief Deputy Coroner Mark Huffman told ABC News that the boy may have been saved by an ancient tree which created an air pocket inside the dune. Huffman added that the boy appeared to have ingested sand into his lungs and that it will require extensive therapy to restore the child's lung strength.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May292013

North Carolina Neighborhood Built on Landfill Is Sinking

ABC News(HAVELOCK, N.C.) -- Warren Salter's yard had yielded more problems than dandelions. Just inches below the surface, he's dug up glass, spark plugs, even the hood to an old truck.

Salter bought his house in Havelock, N.C., in 2001, but by 2003 he realized that something was wrong.

"Everybody's yard is dropping," Salter told ABC News. "What used to be flat land for the kids to play football in is now big sunken areas."

"Trees I planted about five years ago, now you look at them and they're tilted downhill toward where everything is sinking," he said.

The reason, he said, is because the neighborhood was built on an old landfill, one that Salter said was last used in the 1940s and 1950s. The city of Havelock began building out in the 1960s and Salter's home was constructed in 1973.

"My neighbor knew of the dump before this area was built out. He actually remembers where an old school bus is buried," said Salter. That bus in now believed to be under someone's backyard.

Salter told ABC News that he only has to dig inches in his yard to find traces of the dump like steel, glass or the truck hood.

Salter put a call in to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2003 after he realized there was a problem, and they directed him to the North Carolina Division of Waste Management. He said the state conducted studies on the neighborhood around 2005. It was discovered during these inspections that some cavities, or land voids, are a mere two feet below the soil, believed to be caused by now decomposed garbage, he said.

"I get the feeling that it won't be long before I'm coming home, driving my truck up to my driveway and will sink right through," he said.

Neighbor Shannon Richards moved into her 1975 house in 2001 and learned about the landfill a year later.

"My problem is with my house settling. I have cracks in my drywall. I even have some doors that won't close anymore. A couple of years ago, I had a pipe that snapped. That was before we knew of the landfill...now I realize that was probably due to that," Richards said.

"My dog has pulled glass out of the backyard," she said.

Richards said the city of Havelock should be held somewhat responsible.

"[The city] issued the permits to the builders. We'd like for them to come in and properly clean it up. If they can't do that, we'd like for them to buy us out," she said.

Havelock city attorney Warden Smith told ABC News that a city meeting is scheduled for June 10, but Salter and his neighbors may find it a bit "anticlimactic."

"As a practical matter, the meeting on the 10th is simply for our office to report the board of commissioners our findings...for these citizens, it may be a fairly disappointing meeting," Smith said.

"My answer as the city attorney is that the city of Havelock has no liability at all," Smith said. "It wasn't done on their watch."

Smith explained that the landfill and the dumping predated the establishment of the city. He said, "Private property owners will have to deal with it themselves."

The North Carolina Division of Waste Management said in a statement Wednesday, "We are investigating the site to determine the nature and extent of the waste and any health risks due to the presence of metals on-site. Through preliminary soil testing, we have determined the presence of metals in the soils, but those levels are not considered to be an immediate health risk to people living in the community."

Salter said that he is having "a hard time" finding legal representation. He even put in a call to environmental activist Erin Brockovich, but has yet to hear back.

"The house is settling. My back yard is dropping. My neighbor's yard is dropping quickly." Salter said. "We have a mess out here and we're not getting the attention we deserve to get it cleaned up."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar032013

Demolition Begins on Florida Home Over Sinkhole

ABC News(SEFFNER, Fla.) -- Crews began the process Sunday of demolishing a Florida home over a massive sinkhole, where one man was swallowed by the earth three days ago and is presumed to be dead.

Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrell said the demolition process would be slow and methodical.

"We don't know, in fact, once we start touching the building itself whether it will collapse or if parts of it will hold up," Merrell said at a news conference Sunday.

Crews removed the front portion of the house Sunday and retrieved as many items as possible for the family members, who watched from across the street with friends and neighbors.

The demolition will resume Monday, with crews clearing the debris to get a better view of the giant sinkhole opening, which has been obscured by the structure.

The sinkhole, which authorities estimated now measures 30 feet across and up to 100 feet deep, will become the final resting place for 37-year-old Jeff Bush, who was in his bedroom Thursday night when the earth opened up and trapped him underneath his home.

Authorities attempted to rescue Bush, however on Saturday, the search effort was called off after the site became too unstable.

"We feel we have done everything we can," Merrell said. "At this point, it's not possible to recover the body."

Two homes next door to Bush's residence were evacuated Saturday after authorities feared they had been compromised by the growing sinkhole.

With the assistance of rescuers, the homeowners were given 20 minutes to retrieve their valuables.

The Hillsborough County Fire Rescue has set up a relief fund for all families affected by the growing sink hole.

Hillsborough County lies in what is known as Florida's "Sinkhole Alley."

More than 500 sinkholes have been reported in the area since 1954, according to the state's environmental agency.

"Well certainly you have at least dozens of sinkholes a year, but to have one occur right in the center of a home and certainly to injure and even kill somebody; I've never heard of that happening before," said John Marquardt, a geotechnical engineer.

Meanwhile, Bush's brother, Jeremy Bush, is still reeling from Thursday night.

Jeremy Bush had to be rescued by a first responder after jumping into the hole in an attempt to rescue his brother when the home's concrete floor collapsed, but said he couldn't find him.

"I'm so sorry that they couldn't, can't get him out of the hole and that's the last place he's going to be," Bush said.

 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar022013

Rescuers Search for Man as Florida Sinkhole Grows 

ABC News(SEFFNER, Fla.) -- Rescuers early Saturday morning returned to the site where a sinkhole swallowed a Florida man in his bedroom after the home's foundation collapsed.

Jeff Bush was in his bedroom when a sinkhole opened up and trapped him underneath his home at 11 p.m. Thursday night.

While the sinkhole was initially estimated to be 15 feet deep on Thursday night, the chasm has continued to grow. Officials now estimate it measures 30 feet across and up to 100 feet deep.

Rescue operations were halted Friday night after it became too dangerous to approach the home.

Bill Bracken, an engineer with Hillsborough County Urban Search and Rescue team said that the house "should have collapsed by now, so it's amazing that it hasn't."

Using ground penetrating radar, rescuers have found a large amount of water beneath the house, making conditions even more dangerous for them to continue the search for Bush.

"I'm being told it's seriously unstable, so that's the dilemma," said Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrell. "A dilemma that is very painful to them and for everyone."

Hillsborough County lies in what is known as Florida's "Sinkhole Alley." Over 500 sinkholes have been reported in the area since 1954, according to the state's environmental agency.

The Tampa-area home was condemned, leaving Bush's family unable to go back inside to gather their belongings. As a result, the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue set up a relief fund for Bush's family in light of the tragedy.

Meanwhile, Bush's brother, Jeremy Bush, is still reeling from Thursday night.

Jeremy Bush had to be rescued by a first responder after jumping into the hole in an attempt to rescue his brother when the home's concrete floor collapsed, but said he couldn't find him.

"I just started digging and started digging and started digging, and the cops showed up and pulled me out of the hole and told me the floor's still falling in," he said.

"These are everyday working people, they're good people," said Deputy Douglas Duvall of the Hillsborough County sheriff's office, "And this was so unexpected, and they're still, you know, probably facing the reality that this is happening."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar012013

Florida Man Swallowed by Sinkhole: Conditions Too Unstable to Approach

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SEFFNER, Fla..) -- A sinkhole that swallowed a Florida man when it collapsed the bedroom portion of his home overnight is "extremely unstable," expected to grow bigger and too dangerous for rescuers to approach, Hillsborough County officials said.

"Until we know where it's safe to bring the equipment, we really are just handicapped and paralyzed and can't really do a whole lot more than sit and wait," Hillsborough County Fire Chief Ron Rogers told reporters Friday evening. "It's a tough situation; it's even tougher for the family."

The hole that pulled in Jeff Bush, 36, opened up at around 11 p.m. Thursday night in Seffner, Fla., authorities said.

"[Family members] heard a sound that they described as a car crash emanating from the bedroom in the back of the house," Rogers said at an earlier news conference.

The family rushed into the room where Bush was sleeping, according to ABC News' Tampa affiliate WFTS-TV.

"All they could see was part of a mattress sticking out of the hole. Essentially, the floor of the room had opened up," Rogers said.

The hole remained 20 to 30 feet wide Friday evening, officials said, but it had progressively deepened beyond the 20 feet seen earlier today.

"The soil cannot hold the slope that it is right now," said Larry Madrid, president of Madrid Engineering Group, a sinkhole expert called in by the county.

Engineers feared a further sudden collapse because the house sat on fluid, sandy soil, and they remained uncertain about where the unstable area ended.

"[Another collapse] could happen now, it could happen days from now," Madrid said. "It could happen slowly, it could happen quickly."

The partially collapsed house and two neighboring houses have been evacuated.

"As items fall in from the house, [they] get pulled down in," said Bill Bracken, an engineer working with Hillsborough County Search and Rescue.

"Given the size of the hole, I cannot tell you why [the whole house] hasn't collapsed yet," he said.

The instability meant rescuers were unable to continue searching for Jeff Bush within the house.

"As I told the family earlier, the only thing that would be worse than what they're feeling now for their loss would be to experience additional human loss," Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said Friday evening. "That's the dilemma and the dilemma is a very painful dilemma for everyone."

"This is not your typical sinkhole," he added. "This is a chasm that covers a great distance. They still have not been able to find the boundaries of the underground chasm."

After the initial collapse, Jeff Bush's brother Jeremy jumped into the sinkhole and tried to rescue him, only to need rescuing himself.

"I jumped in the hole and was trying to dig him out, but I couldn't find him," Jeremy Bush tearfully told WFTS. "I thought I could hear him hollering for me to help him.

"I didn't see any part of him when I went in there," he said. "All I seen was his bed and I told my father-in-law to grab a shovel so I could start digging, and I just started digging and started digging, and the cops showed up and pulled me out of the hole and said the floor was still falling in."

A first responder "heroically" jumped in and rescued Jeremy Bush, Rogers said.

"I went to the bedroom and saw the sinkhole taking the entire bedroom," Hillsborough County Deputy Douglas Duvall said in a video taken and posted by the sheriff's office online.

"I looked down. There was a family member inside the hole that was trying to get the victim out," Duvall said. "I reached out and was able to get him by his hand and pull him out of the hole. The hole was collapsing. At that time, we left the house."

Friday evening Duvall added, "I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen anything move so fast and do so much devastation.

"If you guys know this neighborhood, this family, pray for them," he said. "They need it."

The family was evacuated from the home as rescuers tried to get to the man. Listening devices and cameras were sent into the hole.

"They did not detect any signs of life," Rogers said. "There continued to be collapses of the earth below the floor to the point where they had to eventually back out of the house."

When asked what authorities believe the victim's status is, Rogers said earlier Friday, "Until we can actually determine where the victim is, I can't really answer that. We're going to do everything we can for Mr. Bush, but we have to make sure we don't endanger other personnel in the process."

Jeremy Bush was trying to be hopeful, but said he feared the worst.

When asked by WFTS why the family was staying nearby, Bush tearfully said, "Just to get closure, I guess, make sure he's not dead, see if he's alive. But I know in my heart he's dead. I just want to be here for him because I love him. He's my brother, man."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar012013

Florida Man Trapped After Sinkhole Swallows His Bedroom

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BRANDON, Fla.) -- A Florida man has disappeared into a 30-foot wide, 20-foot deep sinkhole that collapsed the bedroom portion of his home overnight, according to police.

The hole opened up at around 11 p.m. Thursday in the Brandon, Fla., neighborhood, authorities said.

"[The family] heard a sound that they described as a car crash emanating from the bedroom in the back of the house," Hillsborough County Fire Chief Ron Rogers said at a news conference on Friday.

The family rushed into the room where Jeff Bush, 36, was sleeping, according to ABC News' Tampa affiliate WFTS-TV.

"All they could see was part of a mattress sticking out of the hole.  Essentially, the floor of the room had opened up," Rogers said.  "They could hear the nephew in the hole, but they could not see him."

Bush's brother, Jeremy Bush, jumped in and tried to rescue him, but was unsuccessful.  A first responder "heroically" jumped in and rescued the brother, Rogers said.

The family was evacuated from the home as rescuers tried to get to the man.

Listening devices and cameras were sent into the hole.

"They did not detect any signs of life," Rogers said.  "There continued to be collapses of the earth below the floor to the point where they had to eventually back out of the house."

Rogers said the main issue right now is that authorities and rescuers do not know how stable the house is.

It was previously reported that the hole was 100-feet wide, but Bill Bracken, president of Bracken engineering, clarified at the news conference that the safety zone around the hole is 100 feet, but the hole itself is between 20 to 30 feet in diameter.

It is contained within the footprint of the house, he said.

"The hole has actually taken up most of the inside of the house," Bracken said.  "It started in the bedroom and has been expanding outward and it's taking the house with it as it opens up."

When asked what authorities believe the victim's status is, Rogers said, "Until we can actually determine where the victim is, I can't really answer that.  We're going to do everything we can for Mr. Bush, but we have to make sure we don't endanger other personnel in the process."

Rogers said "time is a critical thing" and they are assessing the situation as quickly as possible without jeopardizing anyone else.

"We're not going to leave until we know that this community is safe and we know the extent of this issue here," he said. " We're going to make sure that everyone is safe as much as we can.  We don't know where the next sinkhole is going to open."

Officials say the home could go at any moment.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug292012

Hurricane Isaac's Eye Wall Expected to Barrel 'Right Over' Louisiana Sinkhole

Assumption Parish Police Jury(PARISH, La.) -- The eye wall of Hurricane Isaac is expected to barrel "right over" Assumption Parish, La., Wednesday -- the home of a massive sinkhole that has raised fears of expansion and possible explosions from nearby gas-filled caverns.

The eye wall of a hurricane is a band of clouds just outside of the eye, or center, of a hurricane, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The most intense winds and rain happen near the eye wall, making it the most dangerous part of a hurricane.

"The latest update puts the track of Hurricane Isaac right over Assumption Parish," police wrote in a statement.

The area is expecting sustained winds of 60 to 70 mph with gusts at 85 mph, according to the Assumption Parish Police Jury. Seven inches of rainfall are expected.

The 400-foot-deep hole measures about 526 feet from northeast to southwest and 640 feet from northwest to southeast. It is in Assumption Parish, about 50 miles south of Baton Rouge.

On Aug. 16, the sinkhole swallowed the boat of two cleanup workers, who had to be rescued from the hole.

Greg Hancock, a professor of geology at the College of William and Mary, said it's hard to predict how the hurricane could affect the sinkhole.

"The fact that we're going to get more rain doesn't necessarily mean that there will be a great collapse of the sinkhole," Hancock told ABCNews.com, but he also said it was possible that "getting additional water into the sidewalls of this sinkhole could lead to a collapse in the sidewalls."

Hancock likened the situation to building a sandcastle on the beach.

"The last thing we want is for the sand to be really wet," he said. "The more water gets added to the sand, the less stable it is."

"There's no reason why this sinkhole shouldn't continue to grow, but I don't know if it'll have anything to do with how much rain they get," Hancock said. "I'd want to keep an eye on it, but I don't think there's a reason to think that there's going to be significant growth to this associated with the hurricane."

A mandatory evacuation of all of Assumption Parish was issued on Tuesday night. Schools are closed Wednesday and Thursday, a midnight curfew is in effect and the sale of alcohol has been banned, according to officials.

A "shelter of last resort" was opened at a middle school, but officials warned, "All evacuees should bring all necessary items such as sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, toiletries, personal hygiene items, medicines, food, water, and personal identification. No cots will be provided."

The sinkhole sits in the middle of a heavily wooded space where it has consumed all of the soaring cypress trees that had been there. Flyover photos show some of the treetops still visible through the mud.

While officials are not certain what caused the massive sinkhole, they believe it may have been related to a nearby salt cavern owned by the Texas Brine Company.

After being used for nearly 30 years, the cavern was plugged in 2011 and officials believe the integrity of the cavern may have somehow been compromised, leading to the sinkhole, which appeared in early August.

Louisiana's Department of Natural Resources required that Texas Brine drill a well to investigate the salt cavern as soon as possible, obtain samples from the cavern and provide daily reports on the findings.

The sinkhole is on the outside edge of the salt dome where this particular brine well is located.

"There are some indications that it very well may have been connected, but there's just indications," Texas Brine Company spokesman Sonny Cranch told ABCNews.com. "There's nothing concrete that has connected the sinkhole to the cavern."

The exploratory rig is being assembled but parts of it are still being shipped. It could take 40 days for the actual drilling to begin, even with an expedited process, Torres said.

In the meantime, officials and residents are left to worry about the possibility of an explosion.

All of the neighboring natural gas pipelines that were of concern last week have been depressurized and emptied, but the nearby caverns are still causing concern.

One cavern that contains 940,000 gallons of butane is of particular concern, Torres said. It's about 2,000 feet from the sinkhole.

Authorities are concerned about the massive explosion that could result from the butane's release to the surface if the sinkhole were to expand far enough to reach it.

There was bubbling in the water and the sinkhole is near areas where there has been exploration for oil and gas in the past. This would make the presence of low levels of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) possible.

The state's Department of Environmental Quality said water samples from the sinkhole showed oil and diesel fuel on its surface, but readings have not detected any dangerous levels of radiation.

"It's not going to get fixed tomorrow," Torres said. "We urge the residents to leave to protect themselves. We have no idea how far this sinkhole will expand or in what direction. We have no clue."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug162012

Louisiana Boat Disappears Into Sinkhole, Workers Rescued

Courtesy Assumption Parish Police Jury(ASSUMPTION PARISH, La.) -- A 400-foot deep sinkhole in Louisiana is expanding and Thursday swallowed the boat of two cleanup workers who had to be rescued from the hole. Officials are still fearful of the possibility of explosions from nearby gas-filled caverns.

"It has expanded 50 feet and during that expansion there were workers that were working on the cleanup of the diesel," Kim Torres, spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Preparedness, told ABC News Thursday.

The two workers were in a boat tied to a tree when the area where the tree grew fell into the sinkhole.

The workers were rescued by airboat. They were uninjured but their boat disappeared into the sinkhole. The cleanup process has been halted.

The gaping hole measures about 526 feet from northeast to southwest and 640 feet from northwest to southeast. It is in Assumption Parish, La., about 50 miles south of Baton Rouge.

The sinkhole sits in the middle of a heavily wooded space where it has consumed all of the soaring cypress trees that had been there. Flyover photos show some of the treetops still visible through the mud.

Authorities enacted a mandatory evacuation for residents of about 150 homes in the area. Last week, Torres said that most residents chose to stay in their homes. But as of Thursday, 60 percent of those homes have been evacuated even though the mandatory evacuation order was not escalated to a forced evacuation, when authorities remove residents.

"I think everyone realized it was serious even though they felt it was contained [before]," Torres said. "When you put human lives in ... it just becomes more serious and maybe people are heeding the warning a little bit more."

Torres said she expects that the 60 percent will increase after the incident with the cleanup workers.

While officials are not certain what caused the massive sinkhole, they believe it may be have been related to a nearby salt cavern owned by the Texas Brine Company.

After being used for nearly 30 years, the cavern was plugged in 2011 and officials believe the integrity of the cavern may have somehow been compromised, leading to the sinkhole.

Louisiana's Department of Natural Resources required that Texas Brine drill a well to investigate the salt cavern as soon as possible, obtain samples from the cavern and provide daily reports on the findings.

The sinkhole is on the outside edge of the salt dome where this particular brine well is located.

"There are some indications that it very well may have been connected, but there's just indications," Texas Brine Company spokesman Sonny Cranch told ABC News. "There's nothing concrete that has connected the sinkhole to the cavern."

The exploratory rig is being assembled but parts of it are still being shipped. It could take 40 days for the actual drilling to begin, even with an expedited process, Torres said.

In the meantime, officials and residents are left to worry about the possibility of an explosion. All of the neighboring natural gas pipelines that were of concern last week have been depressurized and emptied, but the nearby caverns are still causing concern.

One cavern that contains 940,000 gallons of butane is of particular concern, Torres said. It's about 2,000 feet from the sinkhole.

Authorities are concerned about the massive explosion that could result from the butane's release to the surface if the sinkhole were to expand far enough to reach it.

There was bubbling in the water and the sinkhole is near areas where there has been exploration for oil and gas in the past. This would make the presence of low levels of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) possible.

The state's Department of Environmental Quality said water samples from the sinkhole showed oil and diesel fuel on its surface, but readings have not detected any dangerous levels of radiation.

"It's not going to get fixed tomorrow," Torres said. "We urge the residents to leave to protect themselves. We have no idea how far this sinkhole will expand or in what direction. We have no clue."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug102012

Mysterious Louisiana Sinkhole Raises Concerns of Explosions and Radiation

Assumption Parish Police Jury(ASSUMPTION PARISH, La.) -- A nearly 400-foot deep sinkhole in Louisiana has swallowed all of the trees in its area and enacted a mandatory evacuation order for about 150 residences for fear of potential radiation and explosions.

The 400-square-foot gaping hole is in Assumption Parish, La., about 50 miles south of Baton Rouge.

The sinkhole sits in the middle of a heavily wooded space where it has consumed all of the soaring cypress trees that had once stood there. Flyover photos show some of the treetops still visible through the mud.

Authorities enacted a mandatory evacuation for between 100 and150 homes in the area, but most people have chosen to stay, according to the Mayor's Office of Emergency Preparedness. If any of the dangers seem to become more imminent, the order will be escalated to a forced evacuation.

While officials are not certain what caused the massive sinkhole, they believe it may be have been caused by a nearby salt cavern owned by the Texas Brine Company.

After being used for nearly 30 years, the cavern was plugged in 2011 and officials believe the integrity of the cavern may have somehow been compromised, leading to the sinkhole.

On Thursday, Louisiana's Department of Natural Resources required that Texas Brine drill a well to investigate the salt cavern as soon as possible, obtain samples from the cavern and provide daily reports on their findings. It could take up to 10 days to set up the drilling process, even with an expedited process.

"We have to arrange for the driller. We have to pick a location. We have to be very careful to not be in a point that's too close to the sinkhole because of the weight of the rig," Texas Brine Company spokesman Sonny Cranch told ABC News Friday. "We don't want to aggravate the situation."

The sinkhole is on the outside edge of the salt dome where this particular brine well is located.

"There are some indications that it very well may have been connected, but there's just indications," Cranch said. "There's nothing concrete that has connected the sinkhole to the cavern."

There was bubbling in the water and the sinkhole is near areas where there has been exploration for oil and gas in the past, which would make the presence of low levels of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) possible.

The state's Department of Environmental Quality said water samples from the sinkhole showed oil and diesel on its surface, but initial readings did not detect radiation.

In the days after the sinkhole opened up on Aug. 3, nearby Highway 70 was closed down because officials discovered that the sinkhole caused a 36-inch natural gas pipeline to bend and feared the possibility of an explosion, according to ABC News' Baton Rouge affiliate WBRZ.

"That's why the mandatory evacuation is going to stay on, because there is a risk for explosion," John Boudreaux of from Assumption Parish Emergency Preparedness said at a meeting with residents on Tuesday, WBRZ reported.

"We are determined to do everything we can to find the answer," president of Texas Brine Mark Cartwright told the residents.

Some community members were visibly frustrated with the situation and lack of answers.

"You can give us a straight answer because that's all we want," one woman said at the meeting. "We want to know when we can come home and be safe. Because you all go home after a days work. You're safe, but we're not."

Gov. Bobby Jindal issued a declaration of emergency allowing the Governor's Office of Homeland Security to assist in the efforts if necessary.

"This is extremely serious and it's been going on for too long to still be at this point," Kim Torres, spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Preparedness, told ABC News Friday. "The people are very aware of how serious this is."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun222012

Florida Woman’s House Swallowed by Sinkhole

A sinkhole opens up behind a Windermere, Fla. home on May 3, 2012. ABC News(HUDSON, Fla.) -- Susan Minutillo will likely never just run out to knock a few errands off her to-do list the same way again.  The last time she did that, the 79-year-old Florida woman returned home to find her house underground.  

Minutillo, of Hudson, Fla., a Tampa suburb, left her home around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday to run a few errands for her friend.  When she returned just 30 minutes later, she found emergency vehicles surrounding her home that was now partially swallowed by a giant sinkhole.

“I never thought this would happen to me,” she told the Lakeland Ledger Wednesday afternoon.  “I don’t know where I’ll go now.”

A survey crew had been at Minutillo’s home to do a routine test but, at around 3 p.m, the crew had to call in emergency officials when the ground beneath the back half of the house opened, the Ledger reported.

About 70 percent of the home, a size described by Pasco Fire Rescue officials as “as big as a two-car garage,” is in the sinkhole, according to local ABC News affiliate WFTS.

Minutillo was not allowed back inside her house on Wednesday and had to rely on firefighters to bring out her essential items like medications and private documents.  The house, officials say, is a total loss.

Minutillo, a widow, plans to stay with a nearby sister until she learns more, she told the Ledger.

Some of Minutillo’s neighbors were also evacuated as a precaution on Wednesday while officials conduct tests to determine what caused the sinkhole and whether it is continuing to spread.

The sinkhole is the latest to strike the Sunshine State in recent months.  In May, a family in Windermere, Fla., near Orlando, was evacuated after a 100 feet wide and 50 feet deep sinkhole threatened their home.

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