Monday 12 August 2013

Florida holiday villa collapses into sinkhole.

A three story holiday villa at a resort in Lake County, Florida, has partially collapsed into a sinkhole described as between 12 and 15 meters wide. The 24 unit building at the Summer Bay Resort in Clermont, roughly 16 km to the west of Disney World, was evacuated at about 11.30 pm local time on Sunday 11 August 2013 (around 3.30 am GMT), after cracks appeared in the structure and the power failed. At about 3.00 am local time (6.00 am GMT) the about 30% of the building collapsed into the sinkhole. There are no reports of any injuries, but nearby villas have been evacuated as a precaution.

The partially collapsed building at the Summer Bay Resort in Lake County, Florida on Monday 12 August 2013. AP.

Sinkholes are generally caused by water eroding soft limestone or unconsolidated deposits from beneath, causing a hole that works its way upwards and eventually opening spectacularly at the surface. Where there are unconsolidated deposits at the surface they can infill from the sides, apparently swallowing objects at the surface, including people, without trace.

Southwest Florida is particularly prone to sinkholes, due to the porous limestone that underlies much of the area. This is eroded over time by acid in rainwater (most rainwater is slightly acidic, though pollution can make this worse), and can collapse suddenly, causing overlying sediments to collapse into the hole and a sinkhole to open up. This can be triggered by human activity, such as pumping water out (which causes the water to flow, facilitating acid dissolution of the limestone), but is essentially a natural process. 

The approximate location of the collapsed villa. Google Maps.

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