MERIDIAN, MS - A large "sinkhole" opened in a new IHOP restaurant parking lot in Meridian, Mississippi, over the weekend, swallowing as many as 12 cars, according to CNN affiliate WTOK.
The asphalt gave way Saturday evening, leaving a huge hole estimated to be about 35-feet wide, 375-feet long and 30-feet deep, authorities said.
Emergency officials roped off the area to keep people away, WTOK reported. There were no reports of injuries.
Mayor Percy Bland said the cave-in appears to be over the site of a former city culvert, according to WTOK. Crews will begin trying to remove some of the cars Monday, the mayor added.
While the event was first blamed on a sinkhole, Dr. Greg Easson of the University of Mississippi's Geology and Geological Engineering Department said that's not accurate. Easson told CNN sinkholes are the result of a natural process involving the erosion of limestone bedrock due to underground water movement, but what occurred in Meridian was the collapse of a culvert or underwater drain due to the new construction in the area.
Craig Hoffman, a spokesman for International House of Pancakes, told CNN the company is happy no one got hurt.
"The cause of the sinkhole is still under investigation, and our primary concern continues to be the safety of our guests and team members," Hoffman said. "The restaurant will remain closed until all necessary repairs have been completed."