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Two dead and five missing after Pennsylvania chocolate factory explosion

Irish Star logo Irish Star 3/24/2023 Martha Brennan

An explosion occurred at a Pennsylvania chocolate factory on Friday evening, trapping a number of people inside the building and killing two.

The blast occured at the RM Palmer factory in West Reading just after 5pm on March 24 and escalated into a multi-alarm fire.

According to Mayor Samantha Kaag, two people have been confirmed dead and five are unaccounted for.

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Previous reports from Pennsylvania Emergency Management officials had indicated that up to five people had been killed, but authorities on the ground have confirmed that the early figures were inaccurate.

Eight people were brought to Reading Hospital following the incident, a spokesperson for the hospital said. One patient was transferred to another hospital, while two remain there in stable condition. The other victims have been released.

Crews continued to search for the missing victims on Saturday and said they had rescued one person from the rubble.

"Someone was found alive that in rubble, not knowing whether or not they were going to live or die," said Philip Wert of the West Reading Borough Council. "Fortunately, we found that person and they've got a second chance. Fingers crossed we're going to find more."

Emergency personnel and heavy equipment work at the site of a deadly explosion at a chocolate factory in West Reading, PA, Saturday, March 25, 2023. © AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam Emergency personnel and heavy equipment work at the site of a deadly explosion at a chocolate factory in West Reading, PA, Saturday, March 25, 2023.

The cause of the incident is still unknown but officials said there is no danger to the surrounding area.

Mayor Samantha Kaag asked the public to avoid the area as response workers continue to "traverse the difficult task of recovery and assessing damage" through the weekend.

"The tragic explosion at RM Palmer Company and loss of life has shaken our community. Our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends of those who have been affected." Kaag said in a statement.

“I hope that the remaining victims are found safe, and that the community can continue to provide support to those affected by this tragedy in the coming days."

RM Palmer Company has been in business sine 1948 and employs around 850 people at its West Reading headquarters.

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