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Video: The moment a resort villa is partly swallowed by sinkhole

Nearly a third of the Summer Bay Resort collapsed yesterday in Orland, Florida.

Inspectors look over damage to buildings caused by the sinkhole
Inspectors look over damage to buildings caused by the sinkhole
Image: AP Photo/John Raoux

IT SOUNDED LIKE a thunderstorm as windows broke and the ground shook, but vacationers who were awakened at a resort villa near Orlando, Florida, soon realised the building was starting to collapse — parts of it swallowed by a 100-foot sinkhole that also endangered two neighbouring buildings.

By early yesterday, nearly a third of the structure at Summer Bay Resort had collapsed. All 105 guests staying in the villa were evacuated, as were those in the neighbouring buildings. No injuries were reported. The villa, with 24 three-story units, was reported as a total loss.

Inspections

Inspectors remained on the scene yesterday afternoon to determine whether the other two buildings near the sinkhole — a common occurrence in Florida — would be safe to re-enter.

The first sign of trouble came about 10.30pm on Sunday. Security guard Richard Shanley had just started his shift, and he heard what sounded like shouting from a building.

A guest flagged him down to report that a window had blown out. Shanley reported it to management, and another window popped. The resort’s staff decided to evacuate the villa.

Guests

Shanley said the building seemed to sink by 10 to 20 inches and bannisters began to fall off the building as he ran up and down three floors trying to wake up guests. One couple with a baby on the third floor couldn’t get their door open and had to break a window to get out, he said.

“It’s a scary situation,” said Shanley, who guests credited with saving lives by knocking on doors to awaken them. Inside, they heard what sounded like thunder and then the storm of water, as if it were a storm. Evacuation took about 10 to 15 minutes, according to staff and witnesses.

Amy Jedele heard screams coming from one of the adjacent buildings around 10:30 p.m., and several minutes later, the sounds of sirens. She and her fiance, Darren Gade, went outside. “That’s when you could hear the pops and the metal, the concrete and the glass breaking,” she said.

The first portions of the building to sink were the walkways and the elevator shaft, Gade said.

You could see the ground falling away from the building where the building started leaning. People were in shock to see a structure of that size just sink into the ground slowly. … You could see the stress fractures up the side of the structure getting wider.

Then, as a part of the leaning building crumbled quickly into the ground, dust shot up around the site, amateur video of the collapse shows:


(AssociatedPress/YouTube)

Luis Perez also was staying at a nearby building. He said he was in his room when the lights went off around 11.30pm.

Over the next five hours, sections of the building sank into the ground. Paul Caldwell, the development’s president, said the resort gave all affected guests other rooms. Some visitors — many of whom had to leave their wallets, purses and other belongings behind in the quick evacuation — were given cash advances by Summer Bay.

The Red Cross also distributed food, clothing and medicines to vacationers who had lost their belongings in their resort rooms.

There were no signs before Sunday that a sinkhole was developing, Caldwell said. He said the resort underwent geological testing when it was built about 15 years ago, showing the ground to be stable.

Caldwell said he was awaiting further inspections to determine if there was any damage to the second and third buildings.

Last week, Florida received a $1.08 million federal grant to study the state’s vulnerability to sinkholes.

Video: The moment a resort villa is partly swallowed by sinkhole
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Associated Press

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