2 dead, 5 missing in chocolate factory explosion – The Denver Post

WEST READING, Pa. (AP) — An explosion at a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania on Friday killed two people and left five missing, authorities said. One person was pulled from the rubble overnight.

Rescue teams using dogs and imaging equipment continued to search the rubble on Saturday – hours after the blast that erupted just before 5pm on Friday at the RM Palmer Co. factory in the borough of West Reading , about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia. .

West Reading officials said on Saturday they could only confirm two deaths. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency previously said there were five deaths, citing county emergency management officials, but after an update the county also said two had died and five were missing.

Police Chief Wayne Holben said the rescue of one person from the rubble “raised hope that others could still be found”. Rescuers were continuing a thorough search using specialized equipment and techniques. Officials said dogs and imaging equipment were being used to search for signs of life as the debris was carefully removed.

Holben said the blast destroyed a building and damaged a nearby building. The cause remains under investigation, he said.

“It’s pretty level,” Mayor Samantha Kaag said of the site of the blast. “The building in front, with the church and the apartments, the explosion was so big that it moved that building four feet forward.”

A spokesman for UGI Utilities said crews were brought in after damage from the blast led to the release of gas that was helping to fuel the fire.

“We have not received any calls regarding a gas leak or gas order prior to the incident, but we are cooperating with the investigation and part of that will be checking all of our nearby facilities,” the doorman said on Saturday. -IGU spokesperson, Joseph Swope.

Reading Hospital said Saturday afternoon it had received 10 patients, including one transferred to Lehigh Valley Hospital and another to Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center. Two were admitted to Reading Hospital in good and fair condition, respectively, and the others were released, officials said.

Kaag said people were told to move back about a block in each direction, but no evacuations were ordered. She had issued an emergency declaration just to give more resources to first responders. Borough manager Dean Murray said some residents were moved from the damaged building.

Philip Wert, deputy chairman of West Reading council, said the building was built in the late 1950s or early 1960s, and officials needed to ‘access our records to pull the plans last night , in order to obtain a better layout of the building. and mechanics and utilities, where things are.

“The silver lining in all of this is that someone was found alive, someone was found alive who was in the rubble, not knowing if they were going to live or die, and luckily we found that person and she’s got a second chance, and hopefully fingers crossed we’ll find more,” he said.

Officials said RM Palmer, who Murray described as “a borough staple,” was expected to make a statement shortly.

RM Palmer’s website says it has been making ‘chocolate novelties’ since 1948 and now has 850 employees at its West Reading headquarters. Her Facebook page includes entries from earlier this month advertising Easter treats such as chocolate bunnies and ‘the newest milk chocolate dip’ in her ‘bunny family’ as one with candy inside. . The company is by no means the best-known chocolate maker in the area, with Hershey less than an hour to the west.


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