Lehigh Valley

Work begins to fill sinkhole; families still displaced from homes

Work begins to fill sinkhole; 2 dozen families displaced

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The repair work has begun on a massive sinkhole that has displaced two dozen families and jeopardized a nearby graveyard.

The digging on North 10th St. in Allentown started when the sun came up Friday.

A portion of the sinkhole in the 300 block is estimated to be 36 by 40 feet.

Early reports indicated a broken water main may have been a contributing factor.

"What it looks like now is that the sinkhole may have opened and then the pipes, under pressure, automatically collapsed," said Mayor Ed Pawlowski, D-Allentown.

By mid-afternoon, cement trucks were pouring in slurry to stabilize the hole, believed to extend under at least two homes.

"The homes are bad. They're ratched. They are leaning into each other," said Chief Robert Scheirer, Allentown Fire Dept. "All the walls, the load bearing walls, have serious cracking issues. Chances are 41 and 43 are not going to survive this incident and will probably have to be torn down."

Most of the displaced residents were allowed to return home Friday.

"It's overwhelming. It's a close knit block, and to have to see all your neighbors distressed, it's upsetting," said resident Judith Bullard.

That distress could be seen on the faces of the families who were allowed home only long enough to gather more personal belongings with the help of firefighters.

"You try to make a mental list of what's really important," said resident Geryl Hodge.  "It's just hard to try to do that in such limited time."

Some residents hugged each other in the back alley, while others talked to building inspectors and worried about insurance claims.

"It's just crazy. No one would think it would happen to you, but you wake up one morning and you are pretty much living out of bags," said resident Yahaira Delgado. "You know whatever you can grab at the time."

Officials said it will be a few days before they can figure out how many of the seven families can return home and what houses, if any, will need to be torn down.

Meantime, the fate of 54 graves across the street is still up inthe air. If they have to be relocated, the caskets will be buried elsewhere in the cemetery will full military honors.

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