Massive 200-foot sinkhole swallows two homes in the middle of a Florida neighborhood

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LAND O' LAKES, Florida - Residents of a Florida neighborhood evacuated their homes as the ground opened up beneath them, ripping two houses apart as they tumbled into a massive pool of water.

The ground began giving way around 7:30 a.m. when a homeowner noticed their boat was falling into a hole the size of a swimming pool.

Within just a few minutes, that hole grew to 200 feet wide, swallowing both homes.

Fortunately, no one was inside either house at the time and no injuries have been reported, but firefighters did rescue two dogs from one of the homes before it fell into the giant sinkhole.

"We did have a voluntary evacuation of around eight homes," Pasco County Public Safety Official Kevin Guthrie said. "The American Red Cross is en route to assist us with placing those victims at this point in time."

Evacuations continued and increased to ten homes.

Authorities say a previous sinkhole had been repaired in this exact location.

Sinkholes are on the rise in Florida. In fact, the state's Office of Insurance Regulation reports that in 2006, around 2,300 sinkhole claims were filed, yet in just four years those claims increased to 6,700 claims by the year 2010, though insurance adjusters believe many of those claims are questionable.

Many of Florida's lakes are former sinkholes that have formed naturally underground after heavy rainfall.

Underneath Florida's peninsula is a bedrock of porous limestone, which is covered by layers of dirt, sand, and clay.

The limestone dissolves over time due to acidic underground water caused by oxygen, and as the rock dissolves, the earth above the growing caverns becomes too heavy, collapsing into a sinkhole.

However, humans also play a roll in creating sinkholes, especially when digging new water wells, building ponds, or pumping too much water from the ground. Broken water pipes also play a roll.

The cause of this latest sinkhole is still under investigation.

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