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Jul 8, 2013 10:22 AM by LITTICE BACON-BLOOD

Sinkhole forces hard choice on longtime neighbors

BAYOU CORNE, La. (AP) - Neighbors in tiny Bayou Corne, La., face a wrenching decision after a huge sinkhole opened up near their community: Do they stay put, or should they pack up and move?

The sinkhole resulted from a collapsed underground salt dome cavern about 40 miles south of Baton Rouge. After oil and natural gas came oozing up and acres of swampland liquefied into muck, the community's 350 residents were advised to evacuate.

Texas Brine Co., the operator of the salt dome, is negotiating buyouts of residents who have not joined lawsuits against the company. Texas Brine spokesman Sonny Cranch said 92 buyout offers have been made, with 44 accepted so far.

Other families, however, have joined in a class action suit that's scheduled for trial next year.

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