Monday, 4 November 2019

Condominium complex evacuated after sinkhole opens up beneath it in Seminole County, Florida.

A condominium complex has been evacuated after a sinkhole opened up partially undermining the structure on Tuesday 29 October 2019. The hole appeared beneath part of the Royal Arms Condominium building in Altamonte Springs, resulting in sixteen people being forced to vacate the building, the oldest of whom is described as being 92-years-old. The hole is thought to be between six and ten metres deep, although it is partially filled with water, making exact estimates difficult without approaching the hole closely. The evacuated residents are being assisted with finding alternative accommodation by the American Red Cross.

Sinkhole partially undermining a condominium building in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Jerry Hume/Spectrum News 13/Twitter.

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.

Many parts of Florida are particularly prone to sinkholes, due to the porous limestone that underlies much of the central part of the state. 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. 

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