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After Boy's Rescue, Sinkhole Gets EPA's Attention

Photograph by Getty Images

Yes, there are tornadoes and hurricanes, but another natural disaster has been popping up in the news lately—sinkholes. Now the Environmental Protection Agency has stepped in to examine one location, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, after a 6-year-old boy was rescued from a sinkhole in July.

Nathan Woessner, of Sterling, Ill., fell into a sand dune near Michigan City, Ind., and was eventually rescued after being trapped for almost four hours, according to the Chicago Tribune. He fell 11 feet below the surface before he was finally freed.

The EPA sent out a crew this week with equipment that used ground-penetrating radar and a GPS unit to pinpoint exactly how the sinkhole occurred and to find the air pocket that allowed the boy to survive for so long.

One theory as to how the sinkhole formed, according to NBC Chicago, was that a decomposed tree trunk created the hole that swallowed Woessner. The news site reports that yesterday a second sinkhole was found near the original location and that the area will be closed indefinitely.

But that's not the only case.

Earlier this week in Clermont, Fla., the Summer Bay Resort (pictured above) close to Walt Disney World collapsed after a 60-foot wide sinkhole formed under the buildings, according to CNN. That was just after a security guard evacuated the entire premises, saving an estimated 35 guests, including an infant who escaped through a window with its mom and dad.

And earlier this year, in Seffner, Fla., 36-year-old Jeff Bush, who had been living with his brother's family, was swallowed in a sinkhole that formed under Bush's brother's house.

Florida, particularly central Florida, is becoming known as "Sinkhole Alley," according to NBCNews.com, as there are more than 19,000 documented cases of the phenomenon.

So what exactly is a sinkhole?

According to CNN, "Many sinkholes form when acidic rainwater dissolves limestone or similar rock beneath the soil, leaving a large void that collapses when it's no longer able to support the weight of what's above."

While there might not be any warning signs before a sinkhole is created, National Geographic News outlines a few things to watch for.

"Keep your eyes open for fresh cracks in the foundations of houses and buildings," the site reports. "Or if suddenly a door frame is skewed and your door doesn't shut the way it used to."

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