Authorities in Davenport, Iowa, said Tuesday that five people were unaccounted for, including two who may still be in a wreckage..
Mayor Mike Mattson confirmed the numbers at a news conference where a family member of one of the missing also spoke. The site “could be a resting place for some unaccounted for,” the mayor noted.
The six-storey building partially collapsed on Sunday. As of Tuesday morning, nine people. Officials are currently working to determine if it is possible to continue searching for the unstable remains of the building, and if so, how to do so.
“We’re very sympathetic to the possibility that there were two people still left inside,” Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Jim Morris said as he fought back tears.
Morris told a news conference that he had previously spoken with technical rescue teams “about the possibility of an additional search” of the building to search for other residents and pets. Search teams were still on site, but Morris said the system was “unstable and continues to deteriorate as time progresses.”
“The building is in imminent danger of collapsing,” said Shiv-Hatery structural engineer Larry Sandas, who was hired by the city to assess the collapse site and provide engineering advice while recovery efforts are underway. “The pile of rubble helps to stabilize the building,” he said.
The apartment building, built 100 years ago with brick and steel, was “state-of-the-art for that time,” Santas said.
“But this is not a new building,” he continued. “The brick on the outside holds the steel frame inside, while the steel of the building holds the brick up. So, when you lose the brick, you lose the stability of the building.”
And Santos stressed that the search and rescue operations should be carried out carefully, with the understanding that the rest of the structure would not take place.
He said that we should be careful because this building will collapse.
At least one of the people found and eventually rescued from the wreckage of the apartment collapse on Sunday was in a particularly dangerous place. The mayor told reporters that the structural conditions were “incredibly dangerous.”
Medical personnel performed trauma surgery inside the building during the rescue effort.
“Surgeons from this community performed trauma surgery in the building, in the building, saving lives,” he said. The mayor added that emergency responders wanted to go back despite the risks.
“So, for me and our team, understanding the effort of the first responders and other medical professionals, doing everything they can, risk analysis for me and our leadership … As you’ve seen, people are coming across the state to advise us about its structural capacity. Can I allow that?” he said. “I don’t know. I’m still struggling with that, aren’t I? But that’s what we do.”
According to Davenport Fire Chief Mike Carlston, fire crews responded to the scene of the collapse just before 5pm local time on Sunday, and rescue operations began within an hour.
Fire officials reported seven rescues while helping more than a dozen people from the building, he said. Over the next 12 hours, more than 150 professionals responded to the scene. During the second search, they found an eighth person inside the salvaged structure.
Another oneAfter sticking her head out of a fourth floor window. Lisa Brooks, 52, was hiding under a bed when part of the building collapsed, and one of her relatives said she may have been knocked unconscious by a natural gas leak. Brooks was not found by search teams that examined the structure after the collapse.
Carlston told reporters that based on information gathered during the “multiple” searches already carried out, there were no concrete signs of life in the building.
The city is facing a demolition order aimed at protecting the surrounding area and opposition from some in the community who fear others may still be alive and trapped inside.
Amy Anderson, a relative of Ryan Hitchcock, one of the tenants still missing, pleaded with the community at a news conference Tuesday to “let the city do their job” and go ahead with the demolition.
“It’s a no-win situation,” Anderson said, acknowledging the possibility that Hitchcock might be in the wreckage.
“We don’t want to see anyone else get hurt trying to clear the debris,” he continued. “We know he is with the Lord. We must come together.”
On Tuesday morning, Davenport Chief Strategy Officer Sarah Ott released a statement saying the demolition is “a multi-phase process that begins today with permitting and positioning of equipment. The timing of the demolition of the property is still being estimated.”