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Partially collapsed Davenport, Iowa building in "imminent danger" of complete collapse

Officials in Iowa are making plans to demolish a six-story apartment building a day after it partially collapsed, displacing countless residents and business owners. A ninth person was rescued Monday night, one report said. No fatalities have been reported.

City officials in the eastern Iowa city of Davenport said in a news release Monday that the property owner was served with an order for demolition of the building that was once the Davenport Hotel. Residents weren't being allowed back inside to remove their belongings due to the building's unstable condition.

"The property is currently being secured by a contractor on site this afternoon and demolition is expected to commence in the morning," the statement said.

But Tuesday morning, Davenport Chief Strategy Officer for Administration Sarah Ott issued a statement explaining that demolition "is a multi-phase process that includes permitting and staging of equipment that will begin today. The timing of the physical demolition of the property is still be evaluated."

Six-Story Apartment Building Partially Collapses In Davenport, Iowa
A worker walks by a six-story apartment building in Davenport, Iowa on May 29, 2023 after it partially collapsed the day before. Getty Images

In a news release Monday night, city officials said the building is "in imminent danger of collapse with the condition on site continuing to worsen," adding that engineers determined that the debris pile is contributing to the building's stability and removing it "could jeopardize or accelerate the inevitable collapse."

Rich Oswald, Davenport Director of Development and Neighborhood Services, said in the release that, "With the current structure in imminent danger of collapse, the necessity to demolish this building stems specifically from our desire to maintain as much safety for the surrounding areas as possible."

The city said crews weren't able to find anyone in need of rescue 24 hours after the 5 p.m. Sunday partial collapse.

But CBS Rock Island, Ill. affiliate WHBF-TV reported that a resident was rescued shortly before 8 p.m. Monday.

Her family told the station she'd called a relative to say she was stuck in the apartment, where she'd been hiding under a couch after the partial collapse, and rescuers saw her waving from an apartment window.

She would be the ninth person pulled out of the building since the partial collapse, and more than a dozen others were escorted out of the building as they were "self evacuating" immediately after the partial collapse, Davenport Fire Chief Mike Carlsten said.

Six-Story Apartment Building Partially Collapses In Davenport, Iowa
The perimeter of a six-story apartment building in Davenport, Iowa is secured on May 29, 2023 after it partially collapsed the day before. Getty Images

The city added in the Monday night release that police were "working to make contact with and account for all individuals known to be residents in the building at the time of the collapse" but "there are unaccounted individuals that were residents of the property."

The Des Moines Register reported that some anxious family members were still awaiting word on the fate of their loved ones.

The cause of the collapse wasn't immediately known.

But word that it happened didn't surprise Schlaan Murray, a former resident, who told The Associated Press his one-year stay there was "a nightmare."

Murray, 46, moved into his apartment in February 2022 and almost immediately began having issues. The heat and air conditioner didn't work, and there were plumbing problems in the bathroom.

Six-Story Apartment Building Partially Collapses In Davenport, Iowa
Clothes still hang in a closet on May 29, 2023 after a portion of a six-story apartment building partially collapsed the day before in Davenport, Iowa. Getty Images

He said he made multiple calls to the management company and rarely got a response. Occasionally, he said, a maintenance person would stop by but never completely fix the problem.

"They would come in and put some caulk on it," he said. "But it needed more than that. They didn't fix stuff, they just patched it up."

He questions how the building passed inspections.

"It was horrible," Murray said, adding that he felt the conditions were so bad that he didn't want to bring his children to his apartment.

Murray said he moved out a month before his lease was up in March and still hasn't received his security deposit. He said that while the building's conditions were deplorable, many residents were like him and had a difficult time coming up with first and last month's rent, plus a security deposit, to move to another apartment.

Meanwhile, firefighters and other first responders are being credited with saving lives - at great risk to their own personal safety, officials said during a Monday morning news conference.

"When something like this happens here, and tragedy strikes, our responders immediately do their work and their job and I can't thank them enough," Mayor Mike Matson said.

Carlsten said the back of the complex separated from the mixed-use building, which houses both apartments and businesses. Authorities also found gas and water leaks in the building after the collapse.

Oswaldsaid at a news conference on Sunday that work was being done on the building's exterior at the time of the collapse.

Reports of bricks falling from the building earlier this week were part of that work and the building's owner had a permit for the project, Oswald said.

City officials said Sunday that they had several complaints from residents about needed repairs.

"The tenants told us the building was going to collapse," Jennifer Smith, co-owner of Fourth Street Nutrition, which moved into the building this winter, told the Quad-City Times.

"It sounds bad, but we have been calling the city and giving complaints since December. Our bathroom caved in December," she said.

Smith said water damage has been apparent since they moved into their space. Her fellow co-owner, Deonte Mack, said fire crews were in the building as recently as Thursday for an inspection.

The Quad-City Times reported nearly 20 permits were filed in 2022 for building repairs, mainly for plumbing or electrical issues, according to the county assessor's office.

There were 84 units in the building, a mixture of residential and commercial spaces, the mayor said.

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