A 225-foot-wide, 50-foot-deep sinkhole swallowed two homes and a boat Friday morning in Pasco County’s Land O’ Lakes area, officials said. A third home was in danger of being swallowed by the sinkhole, officials said in a Friday afternoon news conference.
Engineers and deputies expect to be at the scene for weeks, as the rainy season and weather can add damage to the scene.
Officials evacuated residents from nine surrounding homes on Ocean Pines Drive. Other nearby homeowners are under voluntary evacuation.
Some residents were allowed to return to their homes Saturday to grab essential belongings after officials said the hole had stopped growing.
Officials said the sinkhole was filled with mud and toxic waste, including fuels, septic tank contents and other household hazardous materials.
The sinkhole, which was growing toward a nearby lake, is larger than the size of multiple swimming pools.
The hole was growing about 2 feet an hour, officials said.
The following video, provided by WFTS, shows a home destroyed by the sinkhole.
The Ramirez family had just enough time to grab their pets and some of their most important belongings before their home was swallowed up.
“We were hearing the dogs barking, and it was very emotional. We tried to do whatever we could,” one family member said, according to WFTV.
First responders helped residents, including an elderly woman, get their most important belongings and medications while the ground was collapsing under their homes.
“What can you say?” said a resident of one of the homes. “What can we do now? There’s nothing to do. You can’t stop sinkholes.”
Two geologists from the state are investigating the opening.
Officials have set up a 200-foot-wide buffer around the hole as a safety precaution.
“As we were walking around out there, you could feel that ground. It’s soft, and you can almost feel the ground moving underneath your feet,” Sheriff Chris Nocco with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said Friday.
Authorities said a sinkhole opened on the same property five years ago and steps had been taken to stabilize the ground.
“You can see it in the people’s eyes, the anxiety level. They're fearful. And unfortunately, we can’t give them clear answers because this is Mother Nature,” Nocco said.
The American Red Cross is helping displaced families.