Sinkhole site at resort reported stable - WFLA News Channel 8

Sinkhole site at resort reported stable

Posted: Updated:
CLERMONT, FL (WFLA) -

The site of a sinkhole that swallowed part of a vacation resort near Disney World appears to be stable, a spokeswoman for Lake County said.

The sinkhole at Summer Bay Resorts - estimated to be 100 feet in diameter and about 20 feet deep - does not appear to be growing, said Lake County spokeswoman Kelly LaFollette.

The county is now waiting to get word on a geological report ordered by the resort evaluating the ground, she said.  

The sinkhole and collapse frightened and displaced guests early Monday morning, but no one was injured.

As glass broke, the ground shook and lights went out, 105 guests evacuated before a sinkhole caused a section of the central Florida villa to partially collapse.

Julian Moreno, in the building next door to the one with the collapse, was alerted by noise outside and law enforcement outside his door.

"Right away he said, 'You have about two minutes to evacuate the premises,'" Moreno said.

Before the chunk of building came down, Moreno said he heard popping and banging.

"You could hear there was a lot of noise and, like popcorn, like banging, like that's what happens with a sledgehammer when you hit a concrete block, you can hear that cracking noise," he said.

About 30 percent of the three-story structure collapsed around 3 a.m. Monday, Lake County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Tony Cuellar said, and another section was sinking. The development's president said the resort underwent geological testing when it was built about 15 years ago, showing the ground to be stable, and that there were no signs before Sunday that a sinkhole was developing. He said all affected guests had been given other rooms.

Witnesses told The Associated Press they could hear a cracking sound as the villa began sinking. A large crack was visible at the building's base.

Luis Perez, who was staying at a villa near the sinking one, 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 the outage 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 Berona, N.J.

(Related story: 06/01/2013 Engineers examine Bob Evans in Seffner for possible sinkhole)

Paul Caldwell, the development's president, said 48 three-story units are a total loss. The resort has about 900 units spread over a large area about 10 miles west of Walt Disney World.

Caldwell said a window popped in one of the rooms about 10:30 p.m. Sunday. A woman ran outside and flagged down a security guard, who notified management. Another window then popped and a decision was made to immediately evacuate the building, Caldwell said. The process took 10 to 15 minutes, he said.

Summer Bay is described on its website as a luxury resort with condominiums, two-bedroom villas and vacation houses in addition to standard rooms. The site touts a clubhouse, atrium and poolside bar, and says the resort is on a secluded 64-acre lake.

Florida has a long, ongoing problem with sinkholes, which 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.

Related story: 06/11/2013 Sinkhole forms under Plant City home

But such fatalities and injuries are rare, and most sinkholes are small. Sinkholes can develop quickly or slowly over time.

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.

Other states sit atop limestone in a similar way, but Florida has additional factors like extreme weather, development, aquifer pumping and construction.

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