Graves may be exhumed due to Allentown sinkhole

AP News
Posted: Dec 29, 2011 11:04 PM
Graves may be exhumed due to Allentown sinkhole

A sinkhole that forced about 25 people to evacuate their homes Thursday spread to a nearby cemetery, threatening dozens of graves, authorities said.

A Lehigh County judge granted Coroner Scott Grim the right to determine if the graves should be exhumed from the Union and West End Cemetery. No immediate decision was made, Grim said.

Fire Chief Robert Scheirer said that 54 graves were threatened by the approaching water.

Authorities discovered a water main break Thursday morning after a nearby resident's basement flooded. They did not yet know what happened first, the sinkhole or the water main break. The sinkhole was estimated to be more than 10 feet long and may be growing, authorities said.

No injuries were reported. Five properties had been deemed structurally unsafe, however.

"We had a water main break _ it washed out underneath the road completely," Scheirer told the Morning Call of Allentown. "At this point, we don't know if the homes will have to be condemned or not."

Ann Blacker was forced to leave the home where she has lived for nearly three decades. She's not sure if she'll be back.

"The firemen told us about the sinkhole that was a half a block away," Blacker told the newspaper. "We're afraid we'll lose our home and everything in it. With sinkholes, you never know how far they will spread. There is just a lot of uncertainty now."

She plans to stay with her mother. A shelter has been set up at an elementary school to accommodate evacuees who need somewhere to stay.


Information from: The Morning Call,