An explosion at a chocolate factory in West Reading, Pa., on Friday killed two people and left five missing, authorities said at a news conference Saturday morning. Police Chief Wayne Holben said rescuers found one person alive, offering hope for finding more as rescue efforts continue.
The explosion just before 5 p.m. Friday at the R.M. Palmer Co. plant destroyed one building and damaged another nearby. The cause of the explosion is under investigation, Mayor Samantha Kaag said.
Rescuers are moving debris and using canines to search for the remaining five missing people.
"This morning at approximately 1 a.m., I issued a declaration of emergency to gather resources for the tragedy," Kaag said. "To the residents of the borough, I would like to directly address concerns of safety. This declaration is strictly to access more resources for emergency responders."
About eight people were taken to Reading Hospital on Friday evening, Kaag said. Authorities could not offer updates on their condition.
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency earlier reported that five people had died, but on Saturday afternoon said only two were confirmed dead with five missing.
People were asked to move away from the site of the blast, but no evacuations were ordered. The Associated Press reported that some residents were displaced from a damaged apartment building nearby.
"It was the loudest thing I've ever heard in my life," Kristen Wisniewski, who lives three blocks from the factory, told local TV station 6abc. "It literally felt like the ground fell out from underneath you. The whole house shook and my dogs froze. They couldn't move, it was scary."
The company has made "seasonal chocolate novelties" since 1948 and employs 850 people at its West Reading headquarters, about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
"R.M. Palmer has been a presence in the community for decades now," West Reading Borough Council Vice President Phil Wert said, donating candy to Easter egg hunts and giving back to the community. He said it's the first responders' and elected officials' responsibility "to give back to them because they've given to us."