Building evacuated near Gulf Freeway

Crews with the Houston Fire Department evacuated the building on Fuqua near the Gulf Freeway

December 16, 2011 2:11:44 PM PST
An emergency evacuation started off the day at a busy office building in southeast Houston. Workers say they heard cracking noises so loud they thought an earthquake had hit.

Those panicked moments were caused when a column in the Chase building on Fuqua at the Gulf Freeway shifted Friday morning. People inside say they got out quickly, including a dental patient who was undergoing surgery.

Emergency workers rushed to the building after tenants described hearing several loud cracking sounds, followed by feeling the building shake.

About 250 people were in several offices at the time the building shifted shortly before 9am, including a dental patient who was sedated for surgery. All of them were forced to evacuate the building.

Firefighters say the problem appears to be centered on a rear column that settled one or two inches, causing the building to shift. At this time firefighters say the damage appears to be minimal, with some shattered glass and damaged sheetrock, but they want to get a solid opinion from engineers.

Some of the tenants described tense moments as the building shifted.

"It sounded like metal crunching or cracking and glass," said Mary Brammer with Tri-Star Global Energy. "We immediately knew at that point that it wasn't something simple and that it wasn't something that happened in our office, that it was something tied to the building so everybody began to run out."

"You're concerned about other people," Dr. Sherwin Kershman with Oral Surgery Partners said. "You don't have time to fear for yourself, so just made sure everybody was put safely."

Firefighters are waiting on city engineers and structural engineers to help better determine what happened and if it's safe for the workers to return.

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