A Louisiana Sinkhole measure 400-foot deep has reportedly swallowed all of the trees in its area and prompted a mandatory evacuation order for an estimated 150 residences due to fear of potential radiation and explosions.
(Click here for photos of Louisiana Sinkhole)
Located in Assumption Parish, La., about 50 miles south of Baton Rouge, the 400-square-foot gaping hole is situated in the middle of a heavily wooded space where it has consumed all of the soaring cypress trees that had been there.
According to ABC News, a mandatory evacuation for between 100 and 150 homes in the area has been enacted while most people have chosen to stay. If any of the dangers seem to become more imminent, the order will be escalated to a forced evacuation, the news station reports.
As of now, authorities are blaming the massive Louisiana sinkhole on a nearby salt cavern owned by the Texas Brine Company. in 2011the cavern was plugged after 30 years of usage and officials believe the base of the cavern may have somehow been compromised, leading to the sinkhole.
On Thursday, Louisiana's Department of Natural Resources required that Texas Brine start their investigation into the salt cavern as soon as possible. The company was ordered to drill a well and collect samples from the cavern in order to provide daily reports on their findings. The drilling process could take up to 10 days to set up, even with an expedited process.
"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 ABCNews.com today. "We don't want to aggravate the situation."
The sinkhole is said to be sited on the outside edge of the salt dome where this particular brine well is located.
"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."
As authorities have already warned of potential radiation and explosions, fears have been prompted by bubbling in the water. According to reports, the sinkhole is near areas where there has been exploration for oil and gas in the past, which would make the presence of low levels of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) possible.
The state's Department of Environmental Quality has reported that water samples from the sinkhole showed oil and diesel on its surface, but initial readings did not detect radiation.
In the days following Aug. 3, when the sinkhole was discovered to have first opened up, officials had previously closed nearby Highway 70 because the opening caused a 36-inch natural gas pipeline to "bend." Officials feared that the effect would in-turn cause an explosion and so the highway was shut down, according to ABC News' Baton Rouge affiliate WBRZ.
That's why the mandatory evacuation is going to stay on, because there is a risk for explosion," John Boudreaux of from Assumption Parish Emergency Preparedness said at a meeting with residents on Tuesday, WBRZ reported.
"We are determined to do everything we can to find the answer," president of Texas Brine Mark Cartwright told the residents.
While some community members have refused to evacuate their homes, others were visibly frustrated with the situation and lack of answers.
"You can give us a straight answer because that's all we want," one woman said at the meeting. "We want to know when we can come home and be safe. Because you all go home after a days work. You're safe, but we're not."
The situation prompted Gov. Bobby Jindal to issue a declaration of emergency allowing the Governor's Office of Homeland Security to assist in the efforts if necessary.
"This is extremely serious and it's been going on for too long to still be at this point," Kim Torres, spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Preparedness, told ABCNews.com. "The people are very aware of how serious this is."