By Saundra Amrhein
TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) - A 36-year-old Florida man was feared dead on Friday after a sinkhole suddenly opened beneath the bedroom of his suburban Tampa home swallowing him, police and fire officials said.
Rescuers responded to a 911 call late on Thursday after the man's family reported hearing a loud crash in the house and rushed to his bedroom.
"All they could see was a part of a mattress sticking out of the hole," said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Chief Ron Rogers. "Essentially the floor of that room had opened up."
A sheriff deputy who arrived at the scene rescued the man's brother who jumped in the sinkhole and tried to rescue him. Three other adults and a child were in the house at the time the sinkhole opened up.
"I feel in my heart he didn't make it," the brother, Jeremy Bush, told Tampa TV station WFTS. "There were six of us in the house, five got out."
Bush said he thought he heard his brother scream for help.
"I didn't see any part of him when I went in there," he said. "I told my father-in-law to grab a shovel and I started digging. Then the cops showed up and pulled me out of the hole and told me the floor was still falling in."
Authorities have not been able to contact the missing man and ordered the evacuation of several nearby homes out of concern the sinkhole is continuing to grow.
Bill Bracken, the head of an engineering company assisting rescuers, said the sinkhole was as much as 30 feet in diameter and 20 feet deep.
"It started in the bedroom and it has been expanding outward and it's taking the house with it as it opens up," Bracken said.
The risk of sinkholes is common in the state due to its porous geological bedrock, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said.
As rainwater filters down it dissolves the rock causing erosion that can lead to underground caverns, which cause sinkholes when they collapse.
Rogers said officials lowered listening devices and cameras into the hole but had so far not detected any signs of life.
Rescue efforts were suspended on Friday over concerns about the house's stability, Rogers said.
"Right now we're trying to determine what if anything we can do. This is a very difficult situation. It's beneath our feet. We can't see anything," he said.
(Additional reporting by David Adams and Tom Brown; Writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Kenneth Barry and Leslie Gevirtz)
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