DAVENPORT — A specially-trained urban search-and-rescue team, from bases in Cedar Rapids and Sioux City, is working to secure the Davenport apartment building that partly collapsed Sunday. It’s feared the six-story structure could completely cave in at any time, hampering efforts to search the rubble for bodies.
Chief Rick Halleran, director of Iowa Task Force One, says they have about 50 team members on site who’ve been carefully going room-to-room.
“That search was completed before sundown last night and that has allowed us to move to the next phase of our mission, shoring, securing the building for control and recovery,” Halleran says. “Iowa Task Force One has installed exterior shoring on the walls deemed unsafe by our engineers.”
Dozens of tenants were evacuated after the collapse, some with serious injuries, including one woman who had to have a leg amputated. Three residents of the building remain unaccounted for and officials refused to say if search dogs — or rescuers — had found any human remains.
A reporter asked Halleran how the team goes about conducting its searches inside such a dangerous, shaky building.
“As the temperature rises up and down during the day, this building is expanding and contracting, so it’s talking to us. It’s telling us what it wants to do,” Halleran says. “You mentioned utility closets or doors. Yes, we might have to go into them and look. Some of it, as much as we want to, we can’t — because the building’s not letting us or it’s just too unsafe to do it without waiting to install shores.”
Some of the shoring was done by the team, but other exterior shoring will need the help of various utility crews. It’s unclear how long the process may take and no timeline was provided. Davenport Fire Chief Mike Carlson was asked why Iowa Task Force One wasn’t brought in sooner.
“The first 24 to 36 hours that we were there, the building was in a constant state of motion,” Carlson says. “We had to allow the building to settle a little bit before we could actually formalize on a solid plan that we could move forward and have their team come back to actually move forward. Until we worked on some of the pieces on our side, there wasn’t much we could do with their team in that downtime.”
The owner of the apartment building is being fined nearly $400 by the city for failure to maintain the building’s structural integrity. Also, Trishna Pradhan, Davenport’s chief building inspector — has resigned.