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High-rise condo residents in limbo after city pulls occupancy permit over structural safety concerns

“They told us to evacuate the building, so everybody just ran out and no one grabbed anything and they didn’t tell us to grab anything, just get out."

HOUSTON — The City of Houston has pulled the occupancy permit of a high-rise where hundreds of residents had to be evacuated over safety concerns.

They said The Royalton at River Oaks condos west of downtown will have to reapply once the building is back in compliance. The city sent inspectors and engineers but said they're waiting on a full report. 

The Houston Fire Department responded to the 33-story high-rise on Allen Parkway Thursday night after a water line break caused a big mess on the first floor.

They immediately began evacuating residents because the water caused part of the main floor to buckle, HFD said.

"Water was flowing through the lobby and the floor had buckled due to a significant water main break," the department said in a statement. "A wall was also structurally damaged."

Elevators were shut down and residents were told to get out. 

Condo owner John Pettiette said he saw water flowing down some stairs in the lobby as he and others were first ordered out last night. 

“They told us to evacuate the building, so everybody just ran out and no one grabbed anything and they didn’t tell us to grab anything, just get out," Pettiette said. "Beyond frustrating."

Raw video: Resident shares video from inside condos

According to an email residents say they got from management, water lines also ruptured on some resident floors.

Rachelle Rowe and other residents were allowed into their units today to gather essentials before leaving again. But the elevators still weren't operating.

“I feel bad for the people on the 32nd floor, luckily I’m just on eight," Rowe said. "I guess there’s nothing we can do about it and we’re all in it  so...” 

The City of Houston Public Works said it can confirm that “a structural engineer is on-site to inspect the integrity of the building.” An engineer was also on hand to ensure the building is structurally sound.

"I just got told it’s going to be at least 30 days, probably more, before it can be occupied again," Pettiette told us.

Others said they’re having a hard time getting answers and someone in the management office told us "no comment."

Residents received the following email from the complex:

"Structural Engineers will be onsite within the hour to begin an evaluation. The cause of the damage is unknown at this time. To summarize what we have found so far, the first floor concrete buckled near the business center/management office and main water lines ruptured on some residential floors (still evaluating).Water remediation is in progress on the first floor at this time. There are two remediation companies on board as the water damage seems to be extensive. Main Security and HPD are on site and will continue to patrol the building 24/7 until further notice. We are unsure how long the evacuation will be in place. Phone lines and computers are not working but we will continue to communicate by email. We hope everyone is safe and we will keep you informed."

According to its website, The Royalton at River Oaks offers one and two-bedroom condos listed for sale from just over $314,000, to more than $1 million.

This landmark building is known for its architectural crown and as the former home of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. Today, it's also known for -- to quote one resident -- a huge mess.

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