A sinkhole emerged below a Florida villa resort on Sunday night, causing half the building to collapse, leaving the other half structurally unsound. The Summer Bay Resort, near Orlando, reportedly had twenty people staying there Sunday night; all were evacuated safely with no reported injuries. The residents of the villa next door were also evacuated from the 64-acre property, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Around 3 a.m. Monday morning, the building began to collapse into the sinkhole, that measures a diameter of reported 40 to 50 feet.

Residents of the villa had been evacuated around 11 p.m. Sunday night after a few guests reported their windows shattering, causing the security guard, Richard Shanley, to run up and down waking up guests and conducting a swift evacuation (the whole thing took a reported 10 to 15 minutes. As the building continued to show signs of impending destruction, firefighters reportedly arrived on scene and aided the evacuation.

“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,” witness Darren Gade told CBS.

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Summer Bay Resort President Paul Caldwell held a press conference on Tuesday and told people that authorities were examining the sinkhole, and have not found evidence that it is growing. As a result, the Summer Bay Resort is keeping its doors open, though not the three buildings directly adjacent to the sinkhole. Guests staying at the evacuated villas that did not collapse are reportedly being allowed to gather personal belongings with supervision, and the resort is taking claims from those whose possessions were lost in the building collapse.

Caldwell also insisted that the resort was built 15 years ago and before that the land had been tested and proven stable, suitable for building. Authorities are now said to be testing the area around the sinkhole for safety.

Sinkholes are a common problem in the state of Florida due to its base of limestone, though sinkholes vary in size and rate of expansion. The unpredictable sinkholes cause millions of dollars worth of damage in Florida each year, and earlier this year in March a man was killed when his home was caught in a sinkhole, according to CBS. The state of Florida just received a federal grant to fund a project that would study the land’s geological soundness with particular emphasis on sinkholes and would, ideally, lead to a mapping of Florida’s vulnerabilities to sinkholes that can then be used in the development and construction of property.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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