Explosion at Pennsylvania chocolate factory leaves two dead and five missing

An explosion at a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania has killed two people and left five people 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.

Borough officials said on Saturday that 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 emergency management officials in the county, but the county said in an update that two were confirmed dead and five were missing.

“Someone was found alive in rubble, not knowing if they were going to live or die,” the West Reading City Council Vice President Philip Wert said, according to Fox 29. “We found the person, and now they have a second chance.”

Rescue workers used dogs and imaging equipment to look through the remnants of the factory on Saturday.

Police Chief Wayne Holben said the rescue of one person overnight “provides hope that others still may be found,” according to the AP.

The explosion took place before 5pm on Friday, according to local media reports.

A thick plume of black smoke rose from the factory after the explosion. One building was completely destroyed and a neighbouring building — that housed apartments — suffered severe damage.

“It’s pretty levelled,” Samantha Kaag, mayor of West Reading Borough said of the explosion site. The borough 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.”

Mr Holden told the media that the police are investigating the cause of the blast.

Eight people were taken to Reading Hospital on Friday night, according to Tower Health spokesperson Jessica Bezler.

Two people we admitted 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.

Meanwhile, residents in the neighbouring buildings were asked to leave them for safety reasons, according to Dean Murray, the borough manager of West Reading.

Ms Kaag also said people were asked to move back about a block in each direction from the site of the explosion 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 that she heard “a loud noise, like a roaring sound, then the house shook”.