Hundreds of vacationers were displaced late Sunday night near Walt Disney World after a massive sinkhole sparked a chain reaction of broken windows and cracking walls and columns before part of the building collapsed into the ground, according to media reports.
The sinkhole, which by some authorities’ estimates may be up to 60 feet across and 15 feet deep and still growing, partially collapsed the central section of the three-story villa, with another section of the building still sinking, according to a statement made by Lake County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Tony Cuellar published online by Fox News.
The collapse is said to have started around 11 p.m. Sunday night after a guest flagged down a security guard to inform him a window in her villa had just shattered for seemingly no reason. According to Paul Caldwell, president of the resort who recalled the event to the New York Times, as the two spoke, two or three more windows broke. The security guard and arriving emergency responders then began evacuating that building and those surrounding it.
The villa, located roughly 10 miles from Disney World in the Summer Bay resort in Clermont, encompasses 24 units that housed about 20 guests at the time of the collapse. No injuries or deaths have been reported by authorities.
Fortunately, sinkholes throughout Florida do not have a history of causing many injuries or fatalities. This latest sinkhole catastrophe, however, revived not-too-distant memories of a Seffner man who was killed in late February after a sinkhole opened underneath his house, swallowing his bedroom while he slept. His body was never recovered.
Florida’s sinkhole history, which, according to some geologists, may be turning into an epidemic, has long been documented as simply a part of life in the Sunshine State. In fact, according to Randall Orndorff of the United States Geological Survey, four other sinkholes have been reported since the spring in the area between Tampa and Orlando, commonly known to Floridians as “sinkhole alley.”
In addition to the state’s natural topography that makes it especially susceptible to ground collapse, Orndorff attributed much of Florida’s expanding sinkhole issue to commercial overdevelopment and agricultural issues.
“Once you start paving those parking lots and roads, putting up houses,” Orndorff told the New York Times, “all that water runs off and is collected in ditches and storm drains, and it has to go underground in, basically, a torrent.” This torrent, Orndorff added, cuts channels in the weak underlying bedrock forcing it to collapse under the weight of whatever is above ground.