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Iowa apartment collapse: Authorities call off rescue efforts; building to be demolished

Eight people had been rescued by early Monday after part of the historic brick building in downtown Davenport collapsed, authorities said.
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A historic six-story apartment building in Davenport, Iowa, that partly collapsed Sunday evening will be demolished this week after a rescue mission for survivors shifted to a search and recovery operation Monday, officials said. 

Eight people were rescued and an unknown number were injured in the collapse at 324 Main St. just before 5 p.m. Sunday. 

Mayor Mike Matson said Monday that K-9 units worked overnight and came up with no hits for people and that they had left the scene Monday afternoon.

The building is expected to be demolished Tuesday morning, the city of Davenport said in a statement.

Control of the property site was turned over to the Davenport Development and Neighborhood Services Department, and the owner of the property was served with a notice and an order for demolition of the property, the city said.

“Due to the unstable condition of the property, and in the interest of public safety, residents will not be allowed back into the building,” the statement said.

Onlookers watch as emergency crews work the scene of a partial building collapse Sunday on Main Street in Davenport, Iowa.
Onlookers watch as emergency crews work the scene of a partial building collapse Sunday on Main Street in Davenport, Iowa. Nikos Frazier / AP

Jarring photos show a chunk of the building's red brick exterior destroyed, exposing the steel beams and walls within.

The collapse may have caused a large natural gas leak and water to leak from each floor, Davenport Fire Chief Mike Carlsten said Sunday.

Seven people were rescued in the hours after the collapse, and first responders helped more than a dozen as they left the building, Carlsten said. The seven people who were rescued were treated on site, he said, indicating relatively minor injuries.

An eighth person was rescued during an overnight search and taken to a hospital, Matson said Monday. He said the person has “some sort of surgery” scheduled for Monday and is in “pretty bad shape.”

Officials said earlier Monday they were still determining how many people could be unaccounted for.

“I’m praying that there’s nobody left in there,” Matson said by the afternoon, noting that dogs searched the building for six hours.

"As right now, we haven’t identified anybody else" who could still be in the building, he said.

Some people pleaded on social media for information about the whereabouts of loved ones who lived in the building.

Pauletta Brooks said Monday her grandmother Lisa Brooks, 52, lived in the building and was missing after the collapse. 

Pauletta Brooks was at 324 Main St. earlier Sunday and had gone out with some family members when she got a call about a gas leak at the apartment complex around 5 p.m. Family members then called Lisa Brooks and told her to evacuate. 

“We called her and told her to escape the building, but the phone hung up. And we couldn't get in contact with her since then,” Pauletta Brooks said. 

She said her grandmother, who moved into the complex two months ago, said she was heading out before the connection cut out. 

The cause of the collapse was still under investigation, with city structural experts expected to examine the building, officials said. Matson said the building was still structurally unsound Monday morning.

The building is constructed of brick over steel and concrete, according to the city's public library.

Rich Oswald, the city's director of development and neighborhood services, said the property's ownership had "permit issues" for exterior brick work. In addition, he said, the owners were under city orders to make specific repairs and upgrades.

Reports of bricks falling in recent days were related to that work, he said. The condition of the building in downtown Davenport was the subject of numerous resident complaints, officials acknowledged at the news conference.

"The tenants of this building are pretty active," Oswald said. "They've called the city numerous times with complaints."

Matson addressed reports of complaints about the building: “We know some of the complaints, our folks go and look into those complaints, do inspections. But the owner of that facility hired an outside engineering firm to evaluate the structure and sign off on the structure.

"They have been doing some fixes. But future-going, we’ll see where this goes,” he said.  

The Quad-City Times of Davenport reported the building is owned by Andrew Wold. He could not immediately be reached for comment Monday. City documents show that entities called 324 Main Street Project and the Davenport Project have long planned improvements to the building while seeking tax breaks.

The building, in the Cork Hill District, was completed in 1907 and was home to the Davenport Hotel, the city's finest accommodations at the time. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.