- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) - Engineers are trying to determine what caused a drainage structure to collapse beneath the parking lot of a new restaurant, opening a gap that swallowed at least 14 vehicles, a mayor in eastern Mississippi said Monday.

Meridian Mayor Percy Bland declared a state of emergency that will allow the city to remove the vehicles and to hire engineers to assess the collapse.

Ten cars, three sport utility vehicles and a pickup truck are visible, Bland said in a news release.

No one was hurt when the parking lot collapsed Saturday night at the IHOP restaurant that had opened four days earlier on an Interstate 20 frontage road.

The collapse opened a hole 30 feet wide and 360 feet long. It follows a culvert that channels water to a creek.

“We are moving as fast as we can to access the situation and determine the cause of the drainage structure collapse,” Bland said. “Our biggest concern right now is the safety of our citizens.”

Workers plan to start removing vehicles from the hole by midweek, depending on weather, said Richie McAlister, the mayor’s assistant.

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