Thousands of people were left in the dark and several blocks were evacuated early Thursday morning after the 911 caller indicated a water main break and smelled gas near the 700 block of New Street. Since then, power has been restored in most places and several people have been allowed back into their homes in the area, except for those who live near or along the 700 block of New Street.
The fire chief said because of the nature of the sinkhole some buildings on the 700 block of New Street are “off-limits” for safety reasons. While three homes were condemned, a city fire official said on Thursday night they’re monitoring other homes, too. “Nobody will be going in those homes on either the east or the west side of that street because they’re still making sure that the ground underneath is going to be stabilized,” said Bethlehem Fire Chief Robert Novatnack.
Clifford Anderson, who rents an apartment in one of the impacted homes, retrieved some belongings after firefighters escorted him inside. “I just got to get a suitcase and get out of here for a few days,” said Anderson.
Several crews, including city departments and UGI, were on the scene all day investigating what happened first: the gas leak, water main break, or the sinkhole. At this point, there’s no clear answer. Novatnack described the sinkhole almost as if it were a cavern. “Well, it’s in the middle of the street and undermined pretty far,” said Novatnack. “They’ll be jackhammering and taking out part ofthe macadam and concrete until they find the end of it. They’re not there yet,” said Novatnack on Thursday afternoon.
The big problems created a rude awakening for residents along New Street. “The fireman came pounding on my door about quarter to 8 in the morning saying they were evacuating,” said Linda Groff, who quickly left her home with her small dog.
Source: Massive sinkhole, water main break and gas leak leads to evacuations in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; 3 homes condemned