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Cause of giant Miss. sinkhole still a mystery

USA TODAY USA TODAY 9/11/2015 Bart Jansen

State and local investigators are studying the cause of a massive hole that opened in an IHOP parking lot in Meridian, Miss., and swallowed a dozen vehicles after a series of booms.

The hole that opened Saturday evening measures 374 feet long by 36 feet wide and drops off 15 feet, Meridian Mayor Percy Bland told WTOK television. The area had been a large culvert in the past, and the priority is to make sure it remains safe, he said.

The state Department of Transportation was sending engineers Monday to determine the cause of the collapse.

"What we're trying to do right now and what we did last night is try to provide public safety for our citizens," Bland told WTOK.

No one was reported injured when the pavement gave way and opened a gash in the ground, the Associated Press reported.

Gwendolyn Fikes told The Meridian Star that her daughter's car fell into to the hole just minutes after stopping at the restaurant.

"We'd been in there about three minutes," Fikes said, before suddenly hearing a "boom."

Buck Roberts, Meridian's public safety director, told the newspaper that the collapse isn't technically a sinkhole because it didn't result from an underground aquifer drying up. He's calling it an accident.

WTOK said the city on the state border with Alabama, which has a population of about 40,000, has received 3 inches of rain this weekend and nearly 10 in the last two weeks. The restaurant opened earlier this week.

The incident became the talk of the town and created traffic problems as motorists slowed down to take pictures.

"I've never seen this before, and it's just devastating to me," Sandra White told WTOK.

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