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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — A sinkhole formed Wednesday under the National Corvette Museum here, swallowing eight cars, according to its executive director.

Some time before 5:30 a.m. CT, the sinkhole started to form, authorities believe. By 5:39 a.m. power in the museum went off and police were called, Executive Director Wendell Strode said. The incident originally was thought to be a fire.

When emergency personnel got to the museum, they discovered a sinkhole 40 feet wide and 25 to 30 feet deep, Strode said.

"It's pretty significant," he said.

Bowling Green is at the edge of a karst region where caves, springs and sinkholes are common. The main entrance to Mammoth Cave National Park is about 30 miles northeast of the city, but that cave system has more than 400 miles that have been explored.

The National Corvette Museum will celebrate its 20th anniversary in August. Of the eight cars that fell into the hole,the museum owned five and General Motors owned three.

Employees at the museum still are working on a list of cars involved in the incident, which occurred inside the facility's iconic spire called the Sky Dome, Strode said.

Emergency personnel allowed museum staff to remove only one car in the Sky Dome, the only surviving 1983 Corvette, he said. It had not fallen in the hole.

Engineers have been called in to assess the situation.

"Before we do anything, like remove the other cars, we want that assessment so we know if there's been any structural damage to the Sky Dome," Strode said.

The museum is open Wednesday but the Sky Dome will be off limits, he said.

"We'll try to get back to business as usual as soon as we can and keep moving forward," he said.

A monetary estimate of damage done to the museum and the vehicles involved had not been determined early Wednesday.

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