Sinkhole opens up under Bethlehem townhouses; building condemned

Article By: Matt CoughlinContact

A building comprised of 7 townhouses was condemned early Monday morning on the 2400 block of Blake Court in Bethlehem after a sinkhole opened up beneath the structure.Sinkhole in Bethlehem

Sinkhole in Bethlehem

More than a dozen residents were ordered out of their homes after firefighters discovered the sinkhole about 1:40 a.m. Emergency workers were responding to a call from a resident reporting cracks forming in the walls & water coming through the wall.

Emergency Management Coordinator Robert Novatnack said 7 units, numbered 2442 through 2454, have been condemned & a total of 80 homes in the complex are w/out water; a building neighboring the condemned homes is also w/out natural gas service, leaving those occupants w/out heat.

Alan Emmons said when he returned home Sunday night, his roommate told him the home had no water & the building was “groaning & shifting.” Emmons said he called the fire department after getting no response from the property management company. Emmons said he has lived in the home for 11 years. Emmons & his roommate had just renovated part of the interior, he said, but 1 of the walls they worked on is cracked. Officials told Emmons it could be weeks before crews are able to stabilize the building. So he is likely going to stay w/friends, he said.

Novatnack said the residents of all 7 condemned units have either accepted assistance from the Red Cross or made arrangements w/friends or family members.

Assistant Fire Chief Anthony Preletz said emergency workers, using a backhoe about 9 a.m., were trying to determine the extent of the sinkhole. Cracks are visible in the siding & a large gap has formed under the deck of 1 of the townhouses. Representatives of the property management company declined to comment at the scene Monday morning.

More than a dozen residents used an emergency shelter set up by the Red Cross & the city’s emergency management department at Spring Garden Elementary School, about 5 blocks from the complex.

The Red Cross was providing coffee & breakfast, & Wolfe said they expected to serve lunch as well & dinner, if needed. Novatnack said Monday afternoon that officials planned to close the shelter once heat was back on to all the buildings in the complex.

Novatnack said the school district was “wonderful to work with,” & really “stepped in when the community needed it” by providing access to the school.

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