Repairs could take "several weeks, possibly a month," at the giant sinkhole created by a water-main break in Southwest Center City, a city official said Tuesday.

The trouble began Sunday evening, when neighbors near 21st and Bainbridge Streets saw water spraying from manholes, then gushing into the streets, becoming two or three feet deep in places. Residents of several blocks fled their homes, and some people had to be rescued by boat.

At least 70 homes sustained damage, inspectors have found, said Water Department spokesman John DiGiulio.

Although the major leak was under control by about 1:30 Monday morning, Water Department crews were not expected to begin their tasks - removing asphalt and other debris, and replacing a section of shattered 48-inch main - until Wednesday morning.

First, work was suspended Monday morning because of a leaking gas line in the hole. The gas line was repaired within an hour.

Then, Peco began shutting down underground cables and rerouting electrical service in the area. Only six customers lost power because of flooding, and they will need to be certified safe by electricians to have their electricity restored.

Over the last two days, Water Department claims adjusters have been sweeping the area, cataloging damaged possessions and properties. About 70 such reports had been logged as of Tuesday afternoon.

Anyone who has uninspected damage should leave it alone, or photograph it, and call the Water Department at 215-685-6300, DiGiulio said.

Serious structural problems that might make a home unsafe should be reported to the Department of Licenses and Inspections by calling the city's 311 hotline, said spokeswoman Maura Kennedy.

Be prepared to explain the problem, and leave a name and number so an inspection appointment can be scheduled, she said.

at 215-854-4342 or