Photo courtesy WESH
Photo courtesy WESH
(USA Today) -- Engineers on Monday were trying to determine the extent of the damage after luxury resort condominiums crumbled into a massive sinkhole a few miles from Disney World.
Dozens of guests at the Summer Bay Resort in Clermont, Fla., had only 10 to 15 minutes to escape the cracking building late Sunday, the Orlando Sentinel reports. No injuries were reported, but many fleeing guests left behind all their belongings -- including medications.
About 30% of the three-story structure collapsed hours later, around 3 a.m. Monday, Lake County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Tony Cuellar said.
"My heart sunk. I was sick to my stomach," resort president Paul Caldwell told the Sentinel after getting a call after 11 p.m. Sunday that the 15-year-old building full of guests was splintering. "No doubt there would've been injuries if they hadn't gotten the building evacuated."
Cuellar said authorities think the sinkhole was getting deeper but couldn't tell early Monday if it was growing outward.
Caldwell said geologists on Monday estimated the sinkhole was about 100 feet in diameter. "On a preliminary basis, they do not have a concern that it is growing or will grow," Caldwell said.
Late Sunday, firefighters had gone door-to-door of Building 104, a three-story building of garden-style units, to help guests escape.
Security guard Richard Shanley told the Sentinel he ran through the building waking up guests.
"While you are running by, pieces of the building are falling down behind you," he said. "So you just do what you can and get out. "
He said guests were afraid that the building might cave in with people inside.
"Kids were crying. They were saying, 'We don't want to get trapped here. Mommy, we're on vacation. We're here to have fun. This is not what we expected. We don't want to get trapped here,'" Shanley told the newspaper.
The building houses 24 units and about 20 people were staying in it at the time, Cuellar said. The building was sheared nearly in half.
Caldwell told the Sentinel the displaced guests were relocated to other buildings. An adjacent building was also evacuated and 16 people had to leave, Cuellar told the Sentinel.
The American Red Cross was providing assistance at the scene.
Sinkholes, common in Florida, are a function of soft limestone disintegrating from acidic rainwater. Development, heavy rains and removal of groundwater can accelerate the erosion.
In March, a 50-foot deep sinkhole swallowed a home near Tampa. Jeffrey Bush, 37, was sleeping in that home at the time and was declared dead.
Luis Perez, who was staying at a condo building near the sinking one, said he was in his room when the lights went off around 11:30 p.m. He said he was on his way to the front desk to report the outage when he saw firefighters and police outside.
"I started walking toward where they were at and you could see the building leaning and you could see a big crack at the base of the building," said Perez, 54, of Verona, N.J.
Contributing: Associated Press