Western Reading, Pennsylvania –
An explosion at a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania on Friday killed five people and left six missing, authorities said.
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency confirmed the death toll rose Saturday morning after the explosion that occurred just before 5 p.m. Friday at the RM Palmer Company plant in the West Riding neighborhood.
Police Chief Wayne Holbein said the blast destroyed a building and damaged an adjacent building.
“It’s pretty much flattened,” Mayor Samantha Kaag said of the blast site. “The building in front of it, the church and the apartments, the explosion was so powerful that it moved this building one meter forward.”
Holden told reporters that the cause of the explosion in the area about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia is under investigation. A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency said authorities are investigating whether a gas leak was responsible.
Tower Health spokeswoman Jessica Bisler said eight people were taken to Reading Hospital on Friday evening.
She added in an email that two people have been admitted in fair condition and five are being treated and will be released. One of the patients was transferred to another facility, but Bessler did not provide further details.
Kaag said people were ordered to retreat one building in each direction from the blast site, but no evacuation order was issued.
West Riding Borough City Manager Dean Murray said some residents were removed from the damaged building.
City officials are not in direct contact with officials at RM Palmer, Kaag said, whom Murray called a “city staple.”
The company’s website says it has been making “new chocolate products” since 1948 and now has 850 employees at its West Reading headquarters.