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House Topples, Two Others Teetering on Edge of Sinkhole

December 12, 1995

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The skies opened up and so did the ground, as a busted sewer line blasted enough water to carve out a house-swallowing sinkhole as deep as a 10-story building.

Crews worked through the night dumping sand into the hole in an exclusive neighborhood overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, and diverting water from the broken storm drain, police Lt. Henry Parra said today.

One house toppled over into the gaping hole Monday and at least 25 others were evacuated. Two houses teetered on the brink of the hole today.

``There’s still one house that could go any second,″ Parra warned.

No one was injured Monday when the first house crashed into the hole and flew apart. The owners were on vacation and returned in the afternoon.

A neighbor’s garage, a huge palm and a chunk of the street also dropped into the hole. At least 25 other houses in the swanky Sea Cliff neighborhood were evacuated, including the childhood home of photographer Ansel Adams, which was built in 1902.

The city was trying to stabilize the Adams house, owner Peter Winkelstein said. He and his wife, Barbara, were staying with a neighbor.

Driving rain hampered efforts to shore up the threatened homes and plug the broken sewer line that burst with extra runoff, officials said. Crews placed sandbags and plastic tarps on the sides of the hole, while water was diverted into other sewers before reaching the broken pipe.

The broken sewer released a gusher of water that undermined the hillside below the houses. The hole quickly grew to about 200 feet by 150 feet and was about 100 feet deep.

City engineer Todd Cockburn said the sinkhole was the worst he had seen in his 28 years with the city.

``It’s like a water hose on a sand pile,″ Cockburn said of the water that blasted from the broken sewer onto an ever-eroding cliff of sand and debris.

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