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City crews searching collapsed downtown building again

Davenport city officials said Tuesday the situation is changing quickly, but are prioritizing another search to find 5 people still missing.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Davenport crews are planning to search the partially-collapsed building in downtown again, city officials said Tuesday morning.

That announcement comes after city leaders had started preparing the area for demolition early Tuesday, but that process is on hold for now as search efforts continue.

City officials said Tuesday morning at a press conference the situation is changing by the minute. The city is consistently evaluating its plan, and for right now that means not immediately tearing down the building, Mayor Mike Matson said.

Since Sunday night, time has been of the essence.

"There is a lot of work that remains to be done," Matson said." We are committed to that work."

That work includes trying to find five people Matson said are still missing.

"Two of those we believe are possibly still in the building," Matson said.

Davenport Fire Marshal Jim Morris said rescue crews are making plans to go back into the building, however, with some restrictions.

"It’s the opinion of the structural engineer that any additional search operations in the area of that pile of debris should be avoided due to the possibility of collapse," Morris said.

Planning for that process will take time to do so safely, Morris said. Davenport Chief Strategy Officer Sarah Ott said late rescue crews searched for people Tuesday afternoon but did not find anyone. Several animals were rescued during that process, Ott said in the statement.

"It’s extremely difficult when you can’t run up to a pile of bricks and rocks and just start throwing things off," Morris said. "As much as we want to, we want to get everybody out, and we want to do it right now."

Right now, even the fire marshal recognizes the impact of a ticking clock. The city's search plans include trying to save any pets that may still be in the building, Morris said.

"At this point, we’re going to reevaluate how safe we can be in order to get in there and currently not make the situation any worse," Morris said.

City leaders committed to that plan on Tuesday, but don't know when exactly it will happen just yet.

"Our want is to do this. There is a continual evaluation and want to go in again," Matson said.

The city is making those plans to go in again, with what time they have left.

In statements over the last two days, city leaders said demolition would start as early as Tuesday morning. Physically tearing down the building did not happen on Tuesday. 

City officials clarified Tuesday morning it only started the planning process, and does not have a timeline for when it plans to actually tear down the building.

However, Morris was clear Tuesday: that process will not involve explosives, telling reporters the building must come down carefully.

City leaders are also working with outside organizations on what might happen if anyone is found dead inside the building. Officials said the city is committed to providing families as much dignity as possible.

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