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Florida sinkhole swallows parts of resort near Disney World

By AnneClaire Stapleton, CNN
updated 7:32 AM EDT, Tue August 13, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A guard is hailed for helping to save "lives, or limbs, or injuries"
  • Witness says couple, infant escaped through window after door frame collapsed
  • Two buildings at the Summer Bay Resort in Lake County are affected
  • All of the estimated 35 guests in the two buildings were evacuated and accounted for

(CNN) -- A 60-foot-wide sinkhole formed under a resort in central Florida late Sunday, forcing guests out of their rooms as one three-story building collapsed and another slowly sank.

Guests at the Summer Bay Resort in Clermont, about 10 minutes from Walt Disney World, called for help before the collapse, saying they heard loud noises and windows cracking. All guests inside the buildings -- an estimated 35 people, authorities said -- were evacuated before the first structure crumbled.

Sinkhole eating family out of house and home

A roughly 15-foot-deep crater swallowed much of one building, Lake County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Tony Cuellar said. Aerial video from CNN affiliate WFTV showed one end of the building -- which had held two-bedroom, two-bathroom villas -- still standing, but the rest reduced to a pile of debris.

A 60-foot-wide sinkhole formed under a resort in central Florida late on Sunday, August 11, forcing guests out of their rooms as one three-story building collapsed and another slowly sank. A 60-foot-wide sinkhole formed under a resort in central Florida late on Sunday, August 11, forcing guests out of their rooms as one three-story building collapsed and another slowly sank.
Florida resort sinkhole
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Photos: Florida resort sinkhole Photos: Florida resort sinkhole
Resort guests only had minutes to escape
Watch resort get swallowed by sinkhole
See sinkhole swallow resort near Disney
Sinkhole swallowing resort near Disney
Eight Corvettes fell into a sinkhole that opened up beneath a section of the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on Wednesday, February 12. The sinkhole was about 40 feet wide and 25-30 feet deep. Click through the gallery to see other sinkholes that have been in the news. Eight Corvettes fell into a sinkhole that opened up beneath a section of the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on Wednesday, February 12. The sinkhole was about 40 feet wide and 25-30 feet deep. Click through the gallery to see other sinkholes that have been in the news.
When the ground gives way
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Photos: When the ground gives way Photos: When the ground gives way

The evacuation started after 10:30 p.m., when a guest told a security guard about a "window blowing out," said resort president Paul Caldwell.

After another window broke in the guard's presence, the guard called a co-worker and, together, they got everybody out.

"He estimated, I think, about 40 minutes after everyone was evacuated, the big fall came," Caldwell said about the first guard.

"His quick thinking, in my opinion, saved lives, or limbs, or injuries," he said.

No injuries were reported.

A couple and their infant escaped through a window because a door frame had collapsed, witness Maggie Ghamry told WFTV.

"He, his wife and an infant, he had to break the window so they could escape," Ghamry told WFTV. "There were windows breaking everywhere.

"One woman was sitting in the tub, and the tub levitated, and that's when she just grabbed a pair of shorts and came out with nothing."

CNN affiliate WFTV: Buildings damaged

That woman wasn't the only one to leave belongings behind. Other guests left keys and bags in their rooms, and it wasn't clear Monday whether guests would be able to get items back from parts of the collapsed building, Caldwell said.

The resort has made other rooms available to all of the affected guests.

"Those items ... to be very bluntly, realistic -- may never be retrieved," Caldwell said. "They are not going to let us in there to go get stuff for people."

Sinkholes: Common, costly and sometimes deadly

Florida is notorious for mammoth sinkholes. In February, a sinkhole opened beneath a suburban Tampa home, swallowing 36-year-old Jeff Bush from his bedroom. Bush's body was never recovered.

Sinkholes often start when bedrock dissolves but the surface of the ground stays intact. The void eventually collapses.

Living with a sinkhole under your home

CNN's Martin Savidge, Holly Yan and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

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