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TODAY   |  August 13, 2013

Florida sinkhole could grow bigger

The sinkhole that nearly swallowed part of a Florida resort is roughly the size of a basketball court – and could grow even larger. NBC’s Kerry Sanders reports.

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>>> emergency crews in florida are keeping a close eye on the sinkhole that swallowed part of a resort near disneyworld. kerry sanders is on the story for us again this morning. kerry, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, savannah. why did this happen? geologists are looking at rainfall levels. so far this year there's been about 29 and three quarter inches of rain. not a high amount but it may have been enough to set this sinkhole in motion. this morning, geologists say this sinkhole, already the length of a basketball court maybe growing even bigger.

>> the open sinkhole may open other sinkholes.

>> triggers?

>> yes, it's possible.

>> reporter: as the earth opened up and fwan to story the building full of sleeping tourist there were panicked calls to 911.

>> we're trying to get them evacuated and they're saying it's collapsing so fast they don't know if they can get to all the rooms.

>> reporter: maggie on vacation with a friend and three toddlers escaped the collapsing building with little time to spare.

>> it was a near death experience .

>> reporter: maggie and everyone else in the building were able to escape because a security guard went running through the halls ordering more than 100 people out.

>> there were people sleeping. i had to wake them up and tell them to get out of the building.

>> reporter: the resort manager says the security guard is a hero.

>> had he not acted on his own as he was trained to do we were confident there could have been many people trapped in those buildings.

>> reporter: why do sinkholes happen? sandy soil sits on top of clay and that's supported by a layer of limestone. when there's too much rain or a drought it can create a void. as the void gets bigger the earth on top becomes too heavy and the limestone gives way. but for those that lived through it, all the scientific explanations won't make the experience any less terrifying.

>> it's hours later. hold your handout there, are you calm? you're still shaking.

>> yeah.

>> it was that traumatic.

>> yeah.

>> reporter: the tourists who scrambled to safety left behind their clothes, their laptop computers, just about everything. they're working with the red cross now to at least get some of those things together while they try to piece together their continued vacations at disney. matt.

>>> kerry sanders , thank you very