Multiple people killed, several missing in explosion at Pennsylvania chocolate factory
A large explosion at a chocolate factory in West Reading, Pennsylvania, Friday has left multiple people dead and others injured. Several people are also missing.
The explosion occurred at the R.M. Palmer Company, according to CBS Philadelphia. Video from the scene showed flames and black smoke billowing hundreds of feet into the air.
The death toll is uncertain as of Saturday morning. West Reading police chief Wayne Holben and West Reading Mayor Samantha Kaag said in a news conference that there were two people dead and five people missing. One person was found alive overnight, Kaag said. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency first told CBS News that five people were dead and six were missing, before updating their numbers on Saturday afternoon to match the information provided by local officials.
Meanwhile, rescue efforts are ongoing, Holben said.
"Updates on recovery efforts will be provided as more information becomes available," he added.
CBS Philadelphia reported that a total of 10 people were hospitalized with injuries, six of whom have been discharged as of Saturday. Reading Hospital received a total of eight patients, a hospital spokesperson told CBS News on Friday night and West Reading officials confirmed on Saturday.
R.M. Palmer's factory manufactures seasonal chocolates for occasions such as Easter, Christmas and Halloween, according to the company's website, and employs about 850 people. The factory has been in West Reading since the early 1960s, said a member of West Reading's Borough Council in the news conference, and the company has been an "upstanding member of the community" in all the decades the factory has been there. Holben said that R.M. Palmer will release a statement of their own soon.
Kaag told CBS Philadelphia that the factory was "pretty levelled," calling the situation "pretty scary." It's not clear what caused the explosion, and she said in the news conference that an investigation is looking at all possible causes.
One building of the factory was destroyed, CBS Philadelphia reported. A nearby church and apartment building were damaged, too. No evacuations are planned, Kaag told CBS Philadelphia, though the people in the damaged apartment building have been displaced. An emergency declaration was made overnight, Kaag said, to make resources available for emergency responders.
The town of West Reading, located in Berks County, is approximately 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
State Sen. Judy Schwartz, who represents the area, said in a statement that she was "deeply devastated" by the explosion and thanked the West Reading community for pulling together.
"The response from the West Reading community and beyond has been awe-inspiring," she wrote, in part. "First responders throughout Berks County were on the scene and ready to help immediately. The rapid response speaks to the strength and determination of our county."
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