Residents of Assumption Parish, La., have a sinking feeling and "hole" lot to worry about after a 400-square-foot sinkhole devoured a patch of forest near their homes, reported ABC News. So far, trees have been the only victims of the sinkhole, but mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for between 100 and 150 nearby homes.
Don’t blame Mother Nature for this disaster quite yet. An unused salt mine may be the culprit. The mine’s owner, the Texas Brine Company, is working to drill a test hole to check the mine’s integrity.
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"We have to arrange for the driller. We have to pick a location. We have to be very careful to not be in a point that's too close to the sinkhole because of the weight of the rig," Texas Brine Company spokesman Sonny Cranch told ABC News. "We don't want to aggravate the situation."
"There are some indications that it very well may have been connected, but there's just indications," Cranch said. "There's nothing concrete that has connected the sinkhole to the cavern."
Besides concerns of having their dwellings sucked into the bowels of the Earth, residents have to worry about potential gas explosions and radioactivity.
A 36-inch wide natural gas pipe was bent 16 feet downward and 15 feet to the east after the sinkhole developed Thursday, according to John Boudreaux, director of the Assumption Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, as reported by WBRZ, the local ABC affiliate.
A deposit of 1.5 million barrels of liquid butane also sits near the well. If that deposit is breached, the butane could escape into the atmosphere as a highly flammable gas, reported CNN.
The sinkhole could also release radioactivity from natural deposits of radioactive material in the area. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality tested water from the sinkhole, but found no signs of radiation. The water did, however, show oil and diesel contamination.
IMAGE: The Assumption Parish Louisiana sinkhole (Assumption Parish Police Jury)