Two people still counted as missing after the partial collapse of an Iowa apartment building on the weekend were likely inside at the time, officials said on Tuesday, but the structure was too unstable to resume a search for them.
Officials suspended a search out of concern for the safety of rescue workers, said James Morris, fire marshal for Davenport, a small city on the Mississippi River, just west of Illinois. Meanwhile, experts were evaluating the structural integrity of what remained standing.
“The building is unstable and continues to worsen as time progresses,” Morris told a news conference. “We are very sympathetic to the possibility that there are two people still left inside.”
A center section of the six-story, brick and steel building collapsed on Sunday afternoon. The building, more than 100 years old, contained 84 apartments and businesses.
On Monday, officials said they believed nobody remained inside, after eight people had been rescued and sniffer dogs searched for survivors. The initial stages of demolishing the remainder of the building had been due to begin on Tuesday.
But that changed after a ninth survivor was rescued on Monday evening, more than 24 hours after the collapse, when firefighters extended a ladder and plucked a woman from the fourth floor.
Davenport Mayor Mike Matson expressed surprise that she was not found earlier.
“We do not know, but understand, please, that the city is committed to finding out why,” Matson said.
Officials said five people total remained unaccounted for but only two were suspected to be inside.
One of those was identified as Ryan Hitchcock by Amy Anderson, a relative of his.
Anderson said during the briefing that she understood why the search for Hitchcock had been suspended.
He “probably has not survived. I don’t discount that he could be trapped under there miraculously … but we don’t want to see anyone else lose their lives or anyone else be injured,” she said.
City officials said the building had been inspected several times in recent years, both for complaints and routine inspections, but declined to speculate on a cause.
The partial collapse exposed the interiors of some apartments and left a pile of debris on the ground. In one apartment, the inside of a closet neatly lined with clothing on hangers was visible from the street.
Copyright 2023 Thompson/Reuters