Western Reading, Pennsylvania – Two people have been killed and five others are missing after an explosion and fire triggered four alarms at a West Riding, Pennsylvania, chocolate factory on Friday night.
Officials say one person was found alive and pulled from the rubble on Saturday night.
Police Chief Wayne Holben said the rescue of one person from the rubble “gives hope that others can be found”.
Rescue workers continued a thorough search using specialized equipment and techniques. Officials said dogs and camera equipment were used to search for signs of life as the wreckage was carefully removed.
The names of the dead have not been released.
On Saturday, Tower Health said Reading hospital had admitted 10 patients.
“Of those, one was transferred to Lehigh Valley Hospital, one to Penn State St. Joseph’s Medical Center, two were admitted in fair and good condition, and the others were discharged,” the health system said in a statement. .
There was no official news about the cause of this explosion, including whether it was caused by a gas leak.
A UGI Utilities spokesperson said crews were brought in after damage from the blast released gas that was helping to light the fire.
“We did not receive any calls regarding a gas leak or a gas matter prior to the incident, but we are cooperating with the investigation and part of that will be checking all of our facilities in the immediate area,” UGI spokesman Joseph Sopp said Saturday.
The explosion occurred at about 5 p.m. at the RM Palmer Company.
Witnesses reported hearing an explosion coming from the candy factory, and then seeing flames soon after.
Kristen Wisniewski lives three blocks from the well-known local chocolate company.
“It was the loudest sound I’ve ever heard,” she said. “It literally felt like the ground fell out from under you. The whole house shook and my dogs froze, they couldn’t move, it was scary.”
The damage is extensive. Officials say the RM Palmer Building No. 2 is destroyed and there is damage to the adjacent Palmer Building No. 1.
“It’s pretty much flat, unfortunately there’s not much that can be salvaged from it,” said Mayor Samantha Kaag. “In the foreground, with the church and apartments, the explosion was so great that it pushed the building forward four feet.”
When the father and son first heard the explosion, they said they didn’t know what to think.
“I didn’t know, I just went out and saw that mess in there. I think it was a gas explosion the way it sounded,” said Gary Whitmoyer of Wyomissing. “It was very scary, the building filled with smoke from just the explosion.”
Gary Whitmoyer Jr., Weymuyer’s son, said, “I didn’t see flames at first, just a bunch of boards and stuff falling from the sky. I knew it was an explosion.”
Kaag said people were told to back out of a building in every direction but no evacuation orders were given. I issued an emergency declaration only to allow more resources for first responders. Dean Murray, the district manager, said some residents had been displaced from the damaged apartment building.
The building had been erected in the late 1950s or early 1960s, said Philip Wert, vice-chairman of West Reading Council, and those responsible “had to get into our archives to pull the blueprints last night, in order to get a better layout of the building. And the mechanics and utilities, where things are.”
“The silver lining in all of this is that someone was found alive, somebody was found alive in the rubble, they don’t know if they’re going to live or die, luckily we found that person and they have a second chance, hopefully fingers crossed we’ll find more.” “.
The company’s website It says it has been making “new chocolate products” since 1948 and now has 850 employees at its headquarters in West Riding.
Governor Josh Shapiro and PEMA Administrator Randy Padfield visited the site Saturday. Shapiro pledged resources and continued support.
“Our hearts are broken for the families of those who did not return home,” Shapiro said in a statement. “We are with you – and my management is here to provide all the resources and support West Riding needs.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.