Two dead and nine missing in chocolate factory blast

A powerful explosion ripped through a chocolate factory in West Reading on Friday, killing two people and leaving nine others missing.

Police Chief Wayne Holpen said at a news conference that the explosion at the RM Palmer Company chocolate factory in West Reading, about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia, destroyed one building and damaged another around 5 p.m.

He said the cause of the explosion is under investigation.

A spokeswoman, Jessica Bessler, said Reading Hospital received a total of eight patients. One of the patients has been transferred, two have been admitted in fair condition and others will be discharged, he said.

The explosion shot debris, flames and dust into the air A video It was captured by weather cameras and shared on Twitter by a Fox 29 News reporter in Philadelphia.

“The explosion was so big it moved the building four feet forward,” Mayor Samantha Cocke, also a firefighter, told a news conference after responding to the scene. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great scene. It was very scary.”

Chief Holben said there is no danger to the surrounding area, but officials are urging people to avoid the scene. A command center has been set up to coordinate local and state agencies responding to the outbreak, he said.

Founded in 1948, RM Palmer employs 850 people. According to its website, and is known for making seasonal chocolates, including hollow milk chocolate bunnies for Easter. Dean Murray, West Reading Borough Manager, called the company “a staple of the borough”.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved,” he said.

The company did not immediately respond to an email Friday night.

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In an interview, Ms. Kak said she felt the explosion at her home, four or five blocks from the factory.

“I didn’t hear a boom,” she said. “I felt it shake my house.”

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