New sinkhole appears in Florida - but what causes them?


Just days after a sinkhole opened up beneath a home and swallowed a man from his bed in Tampa, Florida, a new one has appeared just a few kilometres away.

The latest sinkhole opened between two homes and was about four metres round and about one-and-a-half metres deep in the centre, said Hillsborough County spokesman Willie Puz.

The latest sinkhole is not believed to be geologically connected to the one that opened up last Thursday under the home of 37-year-old Jeffrey Bush.

But, following the death of Mr Bush, which is believed to be only the second death of that nature ever recorded in the United States, it is bound to be a major cause for concern for the community and is bound to lead to questions about what is actually causing the sinkholes, despite the fact they are common in Florida.

This image shows an aerial photo of the sinkhole which opened up underneath a bedroom late Thursday evening and swallowed Jeffrey Bush in Seffner, Florida. Credit: AP Photo/ABC Action News-WFTS TV)

Mr Bush disappeared into the hole that opened up under his bedroom on Thursday night. The other occupants of the house, which is owned by the family of Jeremy Bush's fiancee, had been preparing for bed when they heard a loud crash and Jeff Bush screaming.

The hole was about 10 metres wide and 20 metres feet deep and filled with clay and debris. It is unlikely that Bush's body will ever be retrieved, officials said.

Workers remove belongings from the home where a sinkhole swallowed Jeffrey Bush. Credit: Getty

On Monday, demolition crews returned to Mr Bush's home to demolish the rest of the house before efforts will begin to stabilize the sinkhole.

Two nearby houses have been evacuated because the sinkhole has weakened the ground underneath them, and their residents probably will never be allowed inside again, said Jessica Damico of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

Mr Bush, a landscaper who mowed highway medians for a living, had moved into the four-bedroom home only two months ago which he shared with his brother, Jeremy Bush, 36, and four others.

Workers recovered a family Bible, flag, military medals, a purse, teddy bears and generations of photos. On Monday they recovered two antique rifles that were family heirlooms.

With the sinkhole expanding, engineers placed listening devices, microphones, ground-penetrating radar and other equipment testing the soil on the site to seek a safety zone to work and any sign of life below. They detected no such sign.

Jeremy Bush said the family was discussing plans for a memorial service and a possible marker at the site.

"I'm the only one who tried to get him out," he said, while begging county authorities to do more to find his brother's body when the lot is cleared.

In 2010 a sinkhole covered a street intersection in downtown Guatemala City. Authorities blamed heavy rains caused by tropical storm Agatha as the cause of the crater that swallowed a a three-story building. Credit: AP

What causes sinkholes?

Sinkholes in Florida are caused by the state's porous geological bedrock, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

As acidic rainwater filters into the ground, it dissolves the rock, causing erosion that can lead to underground caverns, which cause sinkholes when they collapse.

Other subterranean events can cause holes, depressions or subsidence of the land surface that may mimic sinkhole activity, including collapsed or broken sewers or even buried rubbish and other debris.

One of the worst-ever sinkholes on record occurred when the tropical storm Agatha blew through Guatemala in 2010 when a 60-metre deep sink hole swallowed up a three-storey building.

Them, the crater appeared in Guatemala City as it was bombarded by torrential rain and mudslides.

Sinkholes can be stopped if detected early enough though, if the foundation is rebuilt over the crumbling foundation.

A car sits in a sinkhole caused by a broken water main, which collapsed part of Friendship Blvd back in Maryland in 2010. Credit: Getty