One person has been found alive in the rubble of an explosion at a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania that left at least two dead and five missing, WTFX reported.
“The discovery of life overnight, of the overnight recovery efforts, provides hope that others still may be found,” West Reading’s police chief, Wayne Holben said in a Saturday morning press conference.
“The rescue workers are continuing their efforts to search the area thoroughly, utilizing specialized equipment and techniques to locate signs of life,” Chief Holben also said, adding that canines and imaging equipment are being used in the search and recovery effort.
West Reading Mayor Samantha Kaag declared a state of emergency about 1:00 a.m. Saturday morning. She noted that the declaration was strictly to “access more resources for emergency responders on scene.”
Holben noted the the investigation into the Berks County blast is ongoing, and that tents had been erected in the area to help keep the scene dry as weather forecasts indicated thick cloud cover and rain.
Among the victims taken to Reading Hospital, two people are in fair condition, one was transferred to another facility, and five others were discharged, according to a statement from a Tower Health Spokesperson acquired by WTFX.
Though the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency reported that five people were killed in the explosion, local officials including Kaag and Holben say that figure is inaccurate. According to Kaag and Holben, the correct death toll figure currently stands at two and the number of missing stands at five.
“We are getting a lot of help from outside agencies, which we appreciate,” said Holben. Among the agencies Holben mentioned were the Pennsylvania State Police, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the sheriff’s office, and other local organizations.
In addition to the factory being “pretty leveled,” as Kaag described it, there was also damage to a nearby apartment building and a church, WPSG reported.
“The building in the front, with the church and the apartments, the explosion was so big that it moved that building four feet forward,” Kaag also said.
WTFX’s weather camera positioned at the Candlewood Suites hotel across the street caught the blast on video as it occurred. Chunks of debris can be seen flying in multiple directions as clouds of smoke quickly obscure most of the viewable field.
R.M. Palmer Company, headquartered in West Reading, employs more than 850 people, according to their LinkedIn page and website.
During the Saturday morning press conference with local officials, Chief Holben indicated that R.M. Palmer Co. would be making their own official statement “shortly.” As of Saturday around 12:30 p.m., the company had not yet posted a statement on their website nor their other socialmediachannels.
R.M. Palmer did not respond to a request for comment from TheBlaze in time for publication.
Watch WTFX’s coverage, including aerial footage of the deadly blast below.
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