Photo Slideshow: Florida sinkhole damages homes - WRBL

Photo Slideshow: Florida sinkhole damages homes

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A sinkhole behind a home in Dunedin appears to have stabilized, officials said Thursday afternoon.

The sinkhole is now more than 70 feet wide and more than 50 feet deep, the Dunedin Fire Rescue chief said. As of 4:11 p.m., officials say the sinkhole appeared to have stopped growing.

The sinkhole, which has doubled in size since officials arrived on scene early this morning, is behind and between homes on Robmar Road. Two homes have both been condemned and will be demolished, said chief Jeff Parks. No one was injured.

Of the two condemned homes, one lost a porch and the other lost a bedroom. A boat that had been falling into the sinkhole was retrieved with the help of a backhoe.

Part of the neighborhood has been taped off by local officials, but neighbors and media gathering at the edge of that zone can hear occasional crashes. Those noises are things falling into the sinkhole, Parks said.

Rescue crews responded to 1112 Robmar Road about 6 a.m. They reported two homes were directly affected and said they were evacuating seven houses, one of the houses was vacant.

The owner of one of the houses, Michael Dupre, said his daughter heard some noise around 5 a.m. like someone was trying to break into the house. They thought it was an intruder, so Dupre grabbed his rifle and went to the back porch. He said he saw the screened-in porch sinking into the ground. He got his wife and daughter out of the house as the sinkhole was swallowing the backyard.

"Yeah, it was an intruder," Dupre said. "It came from the ground up."

The family lived in the house for about two years and noticed the cracks in the foundation before. Michael Dupre said he contacted his insurance company and went back and forth about the method to fix it, but last week a company started pumping grout under the house.

Sinkholes are common in Florida and the the Bay area. A sinkhole in Seffner opened up under a man's bedroom in March and swallowed him. Jeff Bush, 37, died in the hole and his body was never found.

Another sinkhole swallowed a part of a vacation resort near Disney World but no one was injured.

According to a private engineering company and city officials who confirmed this was a sinkhole, the ground near the homes is really soft. Dunedin's fire chief says officials checked out other reports of possible sinkholes around the affected Dunedin homes, but they were only depressions, and not cause for concern.

Crews will begin knocking down the two damaged homes on Friday morning, and filling the hole with dirt. A large fence has been erected to keep people away from the area.

Janet McGuire with Tampa Bay Red Cross said a shelter for the affected families will open at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church at 705 Michigan Boulevard in Dunedin.

Story by Web staff

James Brierton

James joined WRBL News 3 with experience from CNN, NBC News and his own hyper-local news site. He manages the WRBL News 3 Web desk. More>>

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