An explosion at a Pennsylvania chocolate factory killed two people and left five missing, authorities said.
One person was rescued from the rubble overnight. The explosion took place at the RM Palmer Co plant, the West Reading Borough Police Department said.
County officials said Saturday they could only confirm two deaths, according to the Associated Press. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency previously announced that five people had died, citing information from county emergency management officials, but the county said in an update that two people were confirmed dead and five were missing.
West Reading Council Vice President Philip Wert said the building was built in the late 1950s or early 1960s.
He added that officials had “access to our file to get the plans out last night, to get a better layout of the building and the mechanics and the utilities, where things are.”
“The silver lining to all of this is that someone was found alive, someone was found alive in the rubble, not knowing if they were going to live or die, and luckily we found that person and they have a second chance, and hopefully fingers crossed for find more,” he said.
Rescuers used dogs and imaging equipment to examine the remains of the factory on Saturday.
Police Chief Wayne Holben said the rescue of one person overnight “provides hope that others may yet be found,” according to the AP.
The explosion took place shortly before 5:00 p.m. on Friday, according to local media reports.
A thick column of black smoke rose from the factory after the explosion. One building was completely destroyed and a neighboring building, which housed apartments, was severely damaged.
“It’s pretty level,” West Reading Borough Mayor Samantha Kaag said of the blast site. The district is about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia. “The building in the front, with the church and the apartments, the explosion was so big that it moved that building four feet forward.”
Chief Holden told the media that police are investigating the cause of the explosion.
Eight people were taken to Reading Hospital on Friday night, according to Tower Health spokeswoman Jessica Bezler.
We admitted two people in fairly stable condition and five were being treated. The spokesperson added that they would be released soon. One patient has been transferred to another facility, but no other details were reported.
“We had about 8 that went to the hospital last night, but we cannot speculate on their condition or if there are more or less,” Ms. Kaag said, according to CBS Philadelphia. “Unfortunately, it is a tragic event that we are still gathering information about.”
Meanwhile, residents of neighboring buildings were asked to leave for safety reasons, according to Dean Murray, West Reading’s town manager.
Ms Kaag also said people were asked to move back one block in each direction from the blast site, but no evacuations were ordered.
The PM Palmer chocolate plant employs 850 people at its West Reading headquarters, according to its website.
Liz Soto, who was near the explosion, was quoted by Fox 29 as saying she heard “a loud noise, like a roar, then the house shook.”
UGI spokesman Joseph Swope said on Saturday crews were dispatched to the site after the explosion led to the release of gas, which started the subsequent fire, the AP reported.
“We did not receive any calls about a gas leak or a gas order prior to the incident, but we are cooperating with the investigation and part of that will be checking all of our facilities in the surrounding area,” he said.