Sinkhole swallows villa near Disney

People look at a partially collapsed building over a sinkhole at Summer Bay Resort near Disney World. Photo / AFP
People look at a partially collapsed building over a sinkhole at Summer Bay Resort near Disney World. Photo / AFP

A sinkhole caused a section of a Florida resort villa near Disney World to partially collapse, while another section of the villa was sinking, authorities said.

About 30 percent of the three-storey structure collapsed before dawn, Lake County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Tony Cuellar said. The villa at the Summer Bay Resort had been evacuated, and no injuries were reported.

Cuellar said authorities were also concerned about another sinking section of the villa.

The sinkhole was about 12 to 15 metres in diameter, Cuellar said.

The villa houses 24 units, and about 20 people were staying in it, Cuellar said.

Authorities were called to the scene, about 16 kilometres west of Disney World, late Sunday and found that the building was making popping sounds and windows were breaking.

Witnesses told The Associated Press they could hear a cracking sound as the villa began sinking. A large crack was visible at the building's base.

Luis Perez, who was staying at a villa 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.

"You could see the building leaning, and you could see a big crack at the base of the building," he said.

Florida has a long problem with sinkholes, which cause millions of dollars in damage annually. On March 1, a sinkhole underneath a house swallowed a man who was in his bed. His body was never recovered.

But such fatalities and injuries are rare, and most sinkholes are small. Sinkholes can develop quickly or slowly over time.

The state sits on limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water, with a layer of clay on top. The clay is thicker in some locations, making them even more prone to sinkholes.

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