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2 houses likely lost because of Florida sinkhole

DUNEDIN, Fla. — A half dozen homes were evacuated Thursday after a sinkhole opened up in a backyard about 20 miles north of St. Petersburg, Fla.

No one was injured, but the hole continues to grow slowly, said Chief Jeff Parks of the Dunedin Fire Department. It had increased to about 60 feet in diameter and 50 feet deep by mid-day.

STORY: Home swallowed passed inspection
STORY: Sinkhole that swallowed Fla. man filled

“I thought someone was trying to break in,” said teen Ivy Dupre, who woke up a little after 5:30 a.m. ET when the sinkhole began to collapse. “I heard really loud banging. … And my dad went to look, and the whole screened room was tilting in.”

So far, the family’s enclosed patio, their boat and a neighbor’s pool are damaged and likely lost, the family said. They were able to rescue their truck attached to the boat.

The ground there is so unstable that both homes likely will have to be demolished, Parks told the Tampa Bay Times.

“After the Seffner sinkhole, we were scared,” homeowner Michael Dupre said. That suburb about 15 miles east of Tampa had two sinkholes appear earlier this year, one that swallowed a man, killing him.

Homes in Dunedin area have been plagued with their own sinkhole-related damage from unstable ground, neighbors say. A house on a street adjoining this sinkhole is getting major repairs because of cracks to the structure, and an owner has abandoned another house.

Sinkholes are common in Florida because the peninsula is made up of porous carbonate rocks such as limestone that store and help move water underground. Over time, the rocks can dissolve, creating a void under the limestone roof. When dirt, clay or sand gets too heavy for the limestone roof, it can collapse, creating a sinkhole.

“We’ve been dealing with our insurance company, and finally two days ago they started working on our house,” said Dupre, who bought the ranch-style home five years ago. “Now it looks like our house is gone.”

On Feb. 28, Jeffrey Bush died when a sinkhole opened under his bedroom in Seffner, Fla. His body was never recovered. In August, sections of a building at a resort near Orlando collapsed into a sinkhole; no one was injured there.

Three counties in the Tampa area are known as “sinkhole alley,” state officials say. Two-thirds of the sinkhole damage claims reported to the state Office of Insurance Regulation between 2006 and 2010 came from Hernando, Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

Dunedin is in neighboring Pinellas County but also has reported several sinkholes in recent years. The county is in the top 5 for sinkholes in the state, according to a 2011 report from insurance data analysts RiskMeter Online.

Shyann Malone, WTSP-TV, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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