On Saturday, rescue teams thoroughly searched through the debris of a renowned chocolate factory in Pennsylvania. The plant was hit by an explosion on Friday evening, which caused the loss of two lives and left five individuals unaccounted for.
Following the colossal explosion on Friday night that razed the R. M. Palmer Co. headquarters in West Reading, an individual was rescued alive from the rubble.
During a press conference on Saturday, Mayor Samantha Kaag expressed optimism about the discovery of people found alive overnight and suggested that it gives hope for the possibility of finding more survivors.
During his visit to the site, Governor Josh Shapiro informed that a state urban search and rescue task force, consisting of structural engineers and K-9s, was present, diligently scouring the area for any indications of life.
According to hospital officials, several individuals sustained injuries and were taken to Reading Hospital for treatment, with 2 of them being admitted in “fair” condition and 2 being transferred to different medical facilities. The remaining individuals were released after receiving medical attention for their injuries.
Bricks, windows, and other debris from the factory were scattered throughout the street in the aftermath of the explosion, as evidenced by photos. Smoke continued to emanate from the remnants of the building.
According to Kaag, who is also a firefighter in the area, the damage caused by the explosion was significant and there is little that can be salvaged from it. The front of the church and apartments were hit the hardest, with the explosion moving the building four feet forward.
According to NBC Philadelphia, a neighboring structure was also demolished and a third edifice sustained harm after the fire at a chocolate factory in West Reading.
In order to bring in extra resources, Kaag has officially declared a state of emergency for the borough. This move will help to address the situation on the ground more effectively.
An investigation is currently underway to determine the cause of the explosion, which is suspected to be a consequence of a gas leak.
According to NBC, the West Reading Borough Council’s Vice President, Philip Wert, stated that the building which had been demolished was built in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Officials had to refer to their archives to retrieve the blueprints in order to obtain a better understanding of the building’s layout, mechanics, utilities, and location, as per Wert.
Just three blocks away from the esteemed chocolate company, resides Kristen Wisniewski. She exclaimed, “The noise was the most deafening I have ever experienced! It was as if the earth had crumbled beneath my feet. My dogs were paralyzed with fear as the entire house trembled, sending shivers down my spine.”
According to authorities, the residents of the community located approximately 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia are not at risk.
Established in 1948, the R.M. Palmer Company is a renowned confectionery in the United States, boasting a workforce of 850 employees. Its exceptional seasonal treats, including a diverse assortment of handmade Easter bunnies, have made it a household name.
According to the company, their initial product that was sold to a local chain and paved the way for their success was the Easter bunny known as “Baby Binks.” This treat generated an impressive $20,000 order and played a crucial role in the company’s early success.
In a statement released on Saturday, the company expressed its profound sadness over the tragic events and stated that its main priority is to offer support to its employees and their families.
The statement expressed condolences for the loss of beloved friends and coworkers and offered thoughts and prayers to the families and loved ones affected. Click here to read more.
Expressing gratitude towards the exceptional efforts of first responders and the support of the Reading community, the company conveyed its commitment to collaborate with local and national agencies to aid in the recovery process.
Due to the explosion, the company has been facing communication challenges with its employees and their families. The email, phones, and other communication systems are currently down, making it impossible to connect with those who were affected.
According to the statement, impacted families are currently dependent on first responders and disaster recovery organizations for any available information.