- A Friday evening explosion leveled a chocolate factory in Reading, Pennsylvania.
- The explosion killed at least two, and sent several to the hospital; others are still missing.
- Officials said at a Saturday morning press conference that one person was found alive overnight.
A Friday evening explosion at a Pennsylvania chocolate factory has left at least two people dead, with several still missing, according to officials.
An explosion just before 5 p.m. Friday leveled one and damaged another building at an R.M. Palmer chocolate factory in West Reading, Pennsylvania. Initial reports indicated two people were killed and at least nine were missing.
A Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency spokesperson told Insider Saturday morning that the death toll had risen to five, with six people still unaccounted for. But local officials said at a Saturday morning press conference that at least one person was located overnight with five still missing, and said they could only confirm that two people had been killed, not the five that PEMA has reported.
“That is not accurate,” West Reading Mayor Samantha Kaag said of the PEMA figures. “Come to us for the updates, lean on us so that we can give you the proper counts.”
Police chief Wayne Holben said Saturday morning that the discovery of someone alive overnight provides optimism that others could be found over the rest of the weekend, and said rescue efforts are ongoing.
A Reading Hospital spokesperson told Insider via email that the hospital dispatched six ambulances to the factory and received eight people for treatment Friday night. One was transferred to another facility, two were admitted to Reading Hospital in fair condition, and the other five were released.
Officials said the cause of the explosion is still being investigated, and said a nearby building was moved by the force of the explosion. The explosion was caught on camera at several angles, including one from a weather camera of Fox 29 Philadelphia.
—FOX 29 (@FOX29philly) March 24, 2023
Some residents in the immediate area were displaced, but no larger evacuations were ordered or are currently planned, as officials said there is no danger to those in the area, according to NBC 10 Philadelphia. Officials have also advised residents to stay at least one block away from the explosion to allow emergency workers access.
The chocolate company has been a part of West Reading for decades since it started in 1948. The factory was built in the 1950s and the company currently employs about 850 employees, according to its website.
R.M. Palmer did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent Saturday morning.