By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) – A Florida time-share resort where a sinkhole devoured a building Sunday night said that it is open for business and next week’s guests should “come on down.”
Paul Caldwell, the general manager of Summer Bay Resorts, which is located 6 miles from Walt Disney World, made the pitch to guests at a news conference on Tuesday. He said that geological and structural testing under way on the 100-foot wide cavern and the surrounding buildings should be complete by Wednesday.
Guests staying in the downed building were evacuated by an alert security guard who ran inside to wake occupants as the structure was twisting and collapsing around him. No one was injured.
A total of 36 people were evacuated from two buildings on the sprawling 64-acre property, which has a total of 900 units, the resort said.
The state of Florida, which is prone to sinkholes because of its porous limestone foundation, is set this fall to begin the creation of a statewide geological map showing the relative vulnerabilities to sinkholes. The map could be used by local governments making decisions on building permits.
The map project received funding two weeks ago for its first stage with a $1.1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which follows a spate of sinkholes in 2012 in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Debby, according to Patrick Gillespie, spokesman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Sinkholes are a common feature of Florida’s landscape, typically becoming sites for springs, lakes and portions of rivers after they occur. They most commonly occur as a result of naturally acidic underground water flowing through and dissolving the underlying limestone. North and central Florida generally are more vulnerable than south Florida, Gillespie said.
In 2012, a long drought lowered the water table and emptied natural voids in the limestone, which then collapsed under the weight of torrential rains from Debby, Gillespie said.
In March, a sinkhole under a Tampa-area home opened and swallowed the bedroom of 37-year-old landscaper Jeff Bush, whose body was never recovered.
In 1981, in Winter Park near Orlando, a sinkhole measuring 320 feet wide and 90 feet deep swallowed a two-story house, part of a Porsche dealership and an Olympic-size swimming pool. The site is now an artificial lake.
(Editing by David Adams and Leslie Adler)