A sinkhole that has reached 22 acres in size is forcing the evacuation of 350 people in Louisiana after an underground salt dome cavern collapsed.
The original hole opened up last August, and now several families are having to give up their homes as oil and natural gas comes to the surface, making the area unsafe. Texas Brine Co., the company that operates the salt dome, is offering to buy many of the homes to make the transition easier for those who have to leave, but only 44 out of 92 families have accepted. Many residents feel unsafe and are taking the buyout offers simply because they have no choice.
"We just feel that this place is not ever going to be what it once was," resident Bucky Mistretta told ABC News. "It was just a beautiful, pristine place on the bayou. And now that's gone, and we just don't feel safe about what's underneath us."
But several families are now involved in a class-action lawsuit that will go to trial next year and could cost Texas Brine Co. millions of dollars. They were fined last year by the state for failing to contain the sinkhole and for taking so long to install air monitoring devices in the homes around the sinkhole.
It's been a wild year for sinkholes all across the South; Florida, especially, has been hard hit and many occurrences have caused fatalities. In March, a man was in his bedroom when the entire room collapsed in a massive sinkhole; his brother tried to save him, but he was too late. Elsewhere in Florida, a swimming pool was swallowed up when a hole opened in a residential neighborhood, and a Toledo woman recently found herself twenty feet below the surface of the road when a sinkhole swallowed her car. The woman was unharmed.