A chocolate factory located in West Reading, Pennsylvania, experienced a devastating explosion on Friday that claimed the lives of two people, with five others still missing. The incident occurred at the R.M. Palmer Co. plant just before 5 p.m. local time, and rescue teams are still searching for survivors using specialized equipment and dogs.
Authorities confirmed that one person was rescued from the rubble overnight, which provided hope that others may still be found alive. However, as of Saturday, the search for the missing individuals was still ongoing. The cause of the explosion is still being investigated.
The blast destroyed one building and damaged another, and UGI Utilities spokesperson, Joseph Swope, confirmed that there were no reports of gas leaks prior to the incident. Crews were called to the scene after damage from the explosion led to the release of gas that was fueling the fire. Swope stated that the company is cooperating with the investigation and is checking all of their facilities in the area.
Eight people were taken to Reading Hospital for treatment, with two individuals admitted in fair condition, and five others set to be released. One patient was transferred to another medical facility, but there are no further details regarding their condition.
R.M. Palmer, the chocolate company affected by the explosion, is a staple of the West Reading borough. Its website states that the company has been producing “chocolate novelties” since 1948 and currently employs 850 people at its headquarters.
The borough’s mayor, Samantha Kaag, declared a state of emergency to allow for additional resources for first responders, but no evacuations were ordered. However, some residents were displaced from the damaged apartment building. To explore reliable options for a safe apartment, interested people can navigate to this web-site.
Philip Wert, the vice president of the West Reading council, provided some hope in the aftermath of the tragedy, stating that “the silver lining in all this is someone was found alive, someone was found alive that was in rubble, not knowing whether they were going to live or die, and fortunately we found that person and they’ve got a second chance, and hopefully fingers crossed we’re going to find more.”
As the search for survivors continues, officials have stated that R.M. Palmer is expected to release a statement soon.