A 400-foot deep sinkhole in Louisiana is expanding and today swallowed the boat of two cleanup workers who had to be rescued from the hole. Officials are still fearful of the possibility of explosions from nearby gas-filled caverns.
“It has expanded 50 feet and during that expansion there were workers that were working on the cleanup of the diesel,” Kim Torres, spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Preparedness, told ABCNews.com today.
The two workers were in a boat tied to a tree when the area where the tree grew fell into the sinkhole.
The workers were rescued by airboat. They were uninjured but their boat disappeared into the sinkhole. The cleanup process has been halted.
The gaping hole measures about 526 feet from northeast to southwest and 640 feet from northwest to southeast. It is in Assumption Parish, La., about 50 miles south of Baton Rouge.
The sinkhole sits in the middle of a heavily wooded space where it has consumed all of the soaring cypress trees that had been there. Flyover photos show some of the treetops still visible through the mud.
Authorities enacted a mandatory evacuation for residents of about 150 homes in the area. Last week, Torres said that most residents chose to stay in their homes. But as of today, 60 percent of those homes have been evacuated even though the mandatory evacuation order was not escalated to a forced evacuation, when authorities remove residents.
“I think everyone realized it was serious even though they felt it was contained [before],” Torres said. “When you put human lives in…it just becomes more serious and maybe people are heeding the warning a little bit more.” ….