Florida sinkhole swallows man while he slept

Florida sinkhole? A Florida man is missing after a sinkhole opened up beneath his bedroom in Brandon. The sinkhole is about 30 feet across. Florida rescuers are still searching for the man.

 A man was missing early Friday after a large sinkhole opened under the bedroom of a house near Tampa and his brother says the man screamed for help before he disappeared.

The 36-year-old man's brother told rescue crews he heard a loud crash around 11 p.m. Thursday, then heard his brother screaming for help.

"When he got there, there was no bedroom left," Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Jessica Damico said. "There was no furniture. All he saw was a piece of the mattress sticking up."

The brother called 911 and frantically tried to help his brother. An arriving deputy pulled the brother from the still-collapsing house.

There's been no contact with the man since then and neighbors on both sides of the Brandon home have been evacuated.

"We put engineering equipment into the sinkhole and didn't see anything compatible with life," Ms. Damico said. But Damico would not say that the man is presumed dead.

Damico said that, at the surface, she estimates the sinkhole is about 30 feet across but officials say the sinkhole spreads to about 100 feet across below the surface. Authorities were waiting for an engineering crew to bring monitoring equipment to determine the borders of the sinkhole, she said.

"The entire house is on the sinkhole," Damico said.

Janell Wheeler told the Tampa Bay Times she was inside the house with four other adults, a child, and two dogs when the sinkhole opened.

"It sounded like a car hit my house," she said.

It was dark. She remembered screams and one of her nephews rushing to rescue his brother, who was trapped in the debris.

Ms. Wheeler's house was condemned. The rest of the family went to a hotel, but she stayed behind with her dog, sleeping in her car.

"I just want my nephew," she said through tears.

Sinkholes are relatively common in Florida. In May 2012, The Christian Science Monitor reported on a 100-foot-wide sinkhole that opened up in the backyard of a home in Windermere, an Orlando suburb.

Sinkholes are often caused by the underground erosion of salt beds or soluble sedimentary rocks, such as limestone or dolomite. Ground water flows through these rocks, creating subterranean caverns that can suddenly collapse.

In the past couple of years, large sinkholes have appeared in Guatemala CityTampa, Fla.QuebecMilwaukee; and Germany.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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