Residents of 6 homes near Gainesville sinkhole asked to evacuate

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A sinkhole that opened last week in a north Florida neighborhood expanded on Thursday, leading officials to urge residents from six nearby homes to evacuate.

Johnnie Candiano, 22, his brother Beau Candiano, 20, and cousin Mason Morton had been looking at the sinkhole on Thursday afternoon when they heard a loud noise and saw a tree fall in, the Gainesville Sun reported.

By late afternoon, they hastily threw bags of their belongings into cars, ready to leave the home in Gainesville’s West End Estates neighborhood.

The sinkhole appeared to be about 50 feet (15-meters) wide and about 30 feet (9 meters) deep, said JoAnne Rice, interim chief at Gainesville Fire Rescue.

Rice told the newspaper that city officials urged the residents in six homes near the sinkhole to leave until geological experts deem the area safe. She said the sinkhole wasn’t stable on Thursday afternoon, as crackling sounds were continuing.

“We can still see movement,” she said.

Gainesville Fire Rescue will monitor the sinkhole and decide if more evacuations are needed, Rice said.

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