Rescue operations underway after apartment building partially collapses in Davenport, Iowa

Onlookers watch as emergency crews work the scene of a partial building collapse on the 300 block of West Third Street, Sunday, May 28, 2023, in Davenport, Iowa. (Nikos Frazier/Quad City Times via AP)

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — Rescue operations were underway Sunday evening after part of an apartment building collapsed in the eastern Iowa city of Davenport. Authorities have not said whether anyone was killed.

Authorities said people were treated for injuries at the scene but did not detail how many.

Rescuers were called to the scene shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday. Fire crews rescued seven people and escorted more than a dozen others from the building in their initial response, Davenport Fire Chief Michael Carlsten said at a news conference.

Carlsten said the back of the six-story apartment complex collapsed and had separated from the building, which houses apartments on the upper floors and businesses on the ground level.

Authorities found a gas leak after the collapse, Carlsten said, while water also had leaked throughout the floors of the structure.

First responders were still searching for people who were unaccounted for Sunday. The stability of the building was a concern following secondary collapses while rescuers were at the scene, Carlsten said.

“Our focus is rescue right now,” Davenport Mayor Mike Matson said at a news conference.

“This is an active scene. We will continue to work, continue to evaluate, with the whole purpose of trying to find people and trying to get them out,” Matson said, adding that he spoke with Gov. Kim Reynolds, who offered assistance.

The Davenport Police Department asked people to avoid downtown after the collapse.

A reunification area established at St. Anthony’s Church on Main Street was being serviced by Red Cross personnel, Carlsten said.

The cause of the collapse was not immediately known.

Rich Oswald, City of Davenport director of development and neighborhood services, said at a news conference 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.

The Quad-City Times reported Robert Robinson, a second-floor resident, had gone outside and returned as alarms went off in the building.

“When we started to go back in the lights went out,” he told the newspaper. “All of a sudden everybody started running out saying the building collapsed. I’m glad we came down when we did.”

Robinson and his girlfriend were able to take the elevator down just in time, he said.

“This is horrible,” he said. “We don’t have anywhere to go. Nothing to eat.”

Tadd Machovec, a Davenport contractor, told the newspaper he was inside putting up a support beam when the building came down.

Some people in the area said the building has had problems. City officials said Sunday that they had several complaints from residents about needed repairs.

Jennifer Smith, co-owner of Fourth Street Nutrition, said she learned of the explosion from her husband, who works for Mid-American Energy.

“He was on call and got called in for a building explosion downtown. We had no idea it was our building,” she said. “It sounds bad, but we have been calling the city and giving complaints since December. Our bathroom caved in December.”

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

“The tenants told us the building was going to collapse,” Smith said.

The Quad-City Times reported the building is owned by Andrew Wold. A working phone number for Wold was not immediately available Sunday night and attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

Nearly 20 permits were filed in 2022 for building repairs, mainly for plumbing or electrical issues, according to the county assessor’s office.