Florida sinkhole continues to grow
Police tape surrounds the house of Jeff Bush, who was consumed by a sinkhole while lying in his bed on Thursday night. Photograph: Edward Linsmier/Getty Images
Engineers were working carefully today to find out more about a slowly growing sinkhole that swallowed a Florida man in his bedroom, believing the entire house could eventually succumb to the unstable ground.
Jeff Bush (37) was in his bedroom on Thursday night when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five other people were in the house but managed to escape unharmed.
Mr Bush’s brother jumped into the hole to try to help, but he had to be rescued himself by a sheriff’s deputy.
Engineers began doing more tests at 7am local time today. Crews with equipment were at the home next door, one of two that have been evacuated.
By 10am, officials moved media crews further away from the Bush house so experts could perform tests on the home across the street. It was unclear how large the sinkhole is, or whether it leads to other caverns and chasms throughout the neighbourhood.
Experts say the underground of West Central Florida looks similar to Swiss cheese, with the geography lending itself to sinkholes.
Experts spent the previous day at the property, taking soil samples and running various tests — while acknowledging that the entire lot where Mr Bush lay entombed was dangerous. No-one was allowed in the house.
“I cannot tell you why it has not collapsed yet,” Bill Bracken, the owner of an engineering company called to assess the sinkhole, said of the home. He described the earth below as a “very large, very fluid mass”.
“This is not your typical sinkhole,” said Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill. “This is a chasm. For that reason, we’re being very deliberate.”
Officials delicately addressed another sad reality: Mr Bush is probably dead and his family want his body. Mr Merrill said, however, that they do not want to jeopardise any more lives. “They would like us to go in quickly and locate Mr Bush,” he said.
Officials said today that a fund had been set up to help families affected by the sinkhole.
Florida sinkholes ‘common’
Today, Jeremy Bush — who tried to rescue his brother when the earth opened up — lay flowers and a stuffed lamb near the house and wept.
Hillsborough County Fire Chief Ron Roger called the situation “very complex”.
“It’s continuing to evolve, and the ground is continuing to collapse,” he said.
Sinkholes are so common in Florida that state law requires home insurers to provide coverage against the danger. While some cars, homes and other buildings have been devoured, it is extremely rare for them to swallow a person.
Florida is highly prone to sinkholes because there are caverns below ground of limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water.