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Katie Moore / Eyewitness News
Email: kmoore@wwltv.com | Twitter: @katiecmoore

More than 300 people in Assumption Parish are under a mandatory evacuation order as scientists try to figure out what caused a massive sinkhole in the swamp. The company that once had a salt mine near the site is about to start drilling a relief well to ease pressure underground.

But there are new questions about whether regulators failed to act to prevent it in the first place.

Dennis Landry lives and works on Bayou Corne. It's his backyard. At the end of May, he was boating through the swamp and noticed some unusual bubbling near a pipeline crossing.

At the same time, other residents started feeling tremors, like small earthquakes, in the surrounding area. By August 3, the swamp started to swallow itself. A massive sinkhole full of a salt and diesel-laden slurry opened up.

'The collapse is about the size of a football field, maybe a little bit bigger,' Landry said, 'It remains to be seen if that gas and the gas that could be found near the cavern are related. Everybody's thinking right now, it has to be.'

State emergency managers said Tuesday there's a plugged salt mine underneath the ground near the sinkhole site that may have collapsed. Landry went up in a helicopter to see the site.

'I think I saw a piece of hell there. All you see, when I went to it in an airboat and flew over it is a huge area where all you see is mud, water, cypress trees have disappeared,' he said.

A company called Texas Brine Company operated the abandoned cavern.

Residents nearby were placed under a mandatory evacuation order, including Landry, not just because of the potential for additional collapse, but because of the more than fifty caverns underground.

One near the sinkhole site is being used as a butane storage cavern, a flammable, potentially explosive gas.

According to Landry, it took weeks for them to look to the cavern as a potential source of the bubbles and the sinkhole.

Texas Brine will soon begin drilling a relief well to try and elevate the pressure underground as scientists continue to try and solve the mystery in the swamp.

The Department of Environmental Quality continues to monitor air quality in the area to ensure that no dangerous gasses are leaking. They say the gas bubbling in the swamp is natural gas.

More bubble sites keep appearing. It's something state emergency leaders are keeping a very close eye on.

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