Seven killed in Pennsylvania chocolate factory explosion, US
An explosion occurred at a chocolate factory in West Reading, Pennsylvania in the US on Friday, 24 March 2023, killing seven people and injuring ten, including one rescued from rubble. At around 16h57 it sent plumes of smoke into the air and shook houses. Police said the explosion destroyed one building and damaged another building. One person was pulled alive from the rubble overnight. Rescue crews using dogs and imaging equipment continued to search through the rubble Saturday hours after the blast that erupted just before 17h00 Friday at the RM Palmer Co plant in the borough of West Reading, about 96 kilometres northwest of Philadelphia in the US.
The explosion contained so much force that it physically moved one of the buildings back by four feet. After the explosion, damage from it resulted in the leak of gas that began to further fuel the ensuing fires.
West Reading Borough Chief of Police Wayne Holben said the death toll rose on Saturday with the discovery of a third body at the site. The Berks County Medical Examiner and Coroner on Saturday night also confirmed three fatalities.
Borough Fire Chief Chad Moyer said four people remained missing as emergency personnel continue searching for victims and state and local fire investigators examine the scene to determine a cause.
Reading Hospital says it had received 10 patients, of which one was transferred to Lehigh Valley Hospital and another to Penn State Health St Joseph Medical Centre. Two were admitted to Reading Hospital in good and fair condition, respectively and the others had been discharged, officials said.
Investigators are determining the cause, which may be connected to a gas leak. The National Transportation Safety Board has characterised it as a gas explosion and is examining a natural gas pipeline for fractures and any other sort of damage.
On the afternoon of 25 March 2023, the RM Palmer Company provided the following statement: “Everyone at RM Palmer is devastated by the tragic events at one of our West Reading facilities and we are focused on supporting our employees and their families. We have lost close friends and colleagues and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of all who have been impacted. We are sincerely grateful for the extraordinary efforts of all of the first responders and for the support of our Reading community, which has been home to our business for more than 70 years. We will continue to coordinate closely with local and national agencies to assist in the recovery process. We are anxious to be in touch with all employees and the families of employees who have been impacted but the company's email, phones and other communication systems are down and therefore we are relying currently on first responders and disaster recovery organisations to provide any available information to impacted families. We will be providing additional information and making contact with employees, impacted families and the community as soon as possible.” ~ RM Palmer Company.
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