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PHOTOS: Sinkhole Swallows Three Cars on Southeast Side

By  Emily Morris and Quinn Ford | April 18, 2013 8:03am | Updated on April 18, 2013 1:31pm

SOUTH DEERING — Laide Giwa was late for work Thursday morning, but she's pretty sure her boss isn't going to hold it against her.

"I was supposed to be there at 7 o'clock," Giwa said, standing near where a giant sinkhole was swallowing up cars on her street — including hers.

By 8 a.m., three cars had fallen into the hole, which was so deep that the front bumper of Giwa's car was barely visible from the street. Giwa's brother's car was also devoured by the sinkhole.

"I don't like to miss my job. I called and left a message, but they'll see me on TV anyways," Giwa said, laughing.

City officials blamed the sinkhole on a leaky, nearly century-old water main — and the deluge of rainwater that also helped to wash away the soil under the road.

Giwa, 57, works at a nursing home in Glenview, and awoke at 5 a.m. to find the sinkhole. She said her brother was able to get to his job at O'Hare Airport without his car but said she was stuck at home without hers.

Responders were called to the scene in the 9600 block of South Houston Avenue in the Veteran's Park area of South Deering just before 5:30 a.m., said Officer Michael Sullivan, a Chicago Police Department spokesman.

Mirko Krivokuca, 57, was driving to work when his car fell into the sinkhole, according to his mother, Minnie Krivokuca. Authorities said he was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital with minor lacerations.

Krivokuca said her son was still in the hospital Thursday afternoon but said she spoke with him over the phone after the accident.

"He said he may be OK," she said.

One by one, the cars were swallowed up by the sinkhole as responders arrived.

None of the other cars were occupied, said Officer Veejay Zala, a police spokesman.

Fire trucks and police cars blocked off the street as tow trucks worked to move cars in danger of falling into the hole.

Television news trucks and neighbors crowded around the police tape to take photos and videos.

Monica Torres stood with her son and took pictures of the hole that stretched the width of the street.

"I was surprised when it happened in Florida," Torres said, referring to a sinkhole in Florida that claimed a man's life in March.

"I've never seen it before, and when it happened here, I literally said, 'Holy sh--!'" she said.

The sinkhole sparked a debate among neighbors whether local Ald. John Pope (10th) is doing enough for the neighborhood.

"You see? All the streets are like this," Giwa said, pointing to cracks in the street leading to the hole.

Pope was on the scene by early afternoon, and said an 8-inch water main running under the street had been leaking and, combined with the rainwater, washed away soil supporting the road, causing it to collapse.

"Mother Nature is showing her strength today," Pope said.

At a press conference later at the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications, Water Department Commissioner Thomas Power said the water main dated to 1915, and he compared the sinkhole to another one in the last couple of years at Elston and Foster avenues on the North Side.

"They're indicative of an old infrastructure," he said. "There was no visible warning on the street."

"This has been an extraordinary storm. … It's just a tremendous amount of rain," Power said.

Pope said the broken line means homes near the sinkhole are without water for the time being. And Houston is closed between 96th and 98th streets.

Throughout the city and surrounding areas, police responded to various crashes as flooding made conditions a headache for commuters Thursday morning.