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Tragic Chocolate Factory Explosion Leaves 2 Dead and 5 Missing

by Andrew Wright
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On Friday, there was an explosion at a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania, and it killed two people. Five others were missing, but one of them was found in the wreckage during the night. Rescuers returned on Saturday to continue their search for the rest with dogs and special equipment. The blast happened on Friday afternoon near West Reading, which is around 60 miles away from Philadelphia.

West Reading officials reported that only two people have died. Before today, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency had said there were five deaths because of the county emergency management team, however, after an update from the same team they announced that two passed away and five are still missing.

Chief Wayne Holben said that they have rescued one person from the rubble, giving them hope that other survivors may also be found. To look for more people, rescue workers are using dogs and special machines to help remove the debris carefully. The blast caused destruction to one building and damaged a nearby one. Right now, they are still trying to figure out what happened exactly.

Mayor Samantha Kaag said that the explosion was so strong that it caused a building with a church and apartments to move four feet forward.

Reading Hospital reported that they received 10 people affected by the explosion, and one of them was moved to Lehigh Valley Hospital while another was taken to Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center. Two more were admitted to Reading Hospital in either good or fair condition, and everyone else got discharged quickly.

UGI Utilities sent their own team after the blast destroyed many things which let out gas causing a fire.

Before the incident, UGI spokesperson Joseph Swope said that they had not received any calls about a gas leak or gas order. UGI is now collaborating with the investigation and inspecting all their places around the area. R.M. Palmer stated that everyone at the company was heartbroken by what happened and are doing whatever they can to help their workers and their families.

We feel really sad for those people who have lost their close friends and workmates due to this event. We wish our best thoughts and prayers for the families of all those affected. We are also incredibly thankful for the help of the first responders and offer thanks to Reading community, where our business has been located for more than 70 years.

R.M. Palmer wanted to speak to its employees and their families but was struggling as the phone lines and other communication systems weren’t working. It is expecting help from people like firefighters, police officers and special organizations to give information to those families that have been affected. The company will use this help to make contact with employees, families and the community soon.

Kaag said that people were asked to move back a street away from the area, but no one had to leave their homes. She also made an announcement so that first responders would have access to more help if necessary. Borough manager Dean Murray stated that some people living in the apartment building got moved because of damage.

Governor Josh Shapiro went to the area on Saturday with the head of the emergency management agency, promising that he would give as many resources as possible to help with the recovery. He’ll also continue providing assistance that has already been delivered.

Last night, skilled people called “structural engineers” and dogs specially trained to find things (“K-9s”) showed up to help. They are part of a group called the “state urban search and rescue task force”. On Saturday, even more helpers arrived. Plus, someone from state police who specializes in figuring out why flames started (a fire marshal) is there too.

Philip Wert, the vice president of West Reading council, said that they built the building sometime during the late 1950s or early 1960s. To get a better picture of how it was set up, they had to take out their ancient drawings and maps from that time period.

Frank Gonzalez was looking at the area where the explosion occurred. He said that a lucky person had been found alive, even though they didn’t know if they were going to live or die. Unfortunately, his sister, Diana Cedeno, was working there and is now missing. Hopefully more people will be found alive as well.

The man was feeling frustrated because he doesn’t have any news from the authorities about his sister’s search. He said that they keep trying to find her and reach out in case she’s still alive. His sister has two grown-up kids, with one son serving overseas, while also working part-time decorating parties and studying ministry at a church.

Gonzalez said his son and nephew had worked at the plant, but his son had left a few months ago because of the bad smell there. They both complained to the people who ran the plant, and they were told that it was not a problem and things were taken care of. Someone tried to get a comment about the blast from R.M. Palmer earlier.

Doug was at home scrolling through emails when he felt a massive explosion! His house shook and windows rattled. He never heard such a loud noise before. It was so loud that it felt like a bomb had gone off near him.

Olexy and his neighbors quickly ran out of their homes when they saw a lot of dark smoke in the air. Olexy was confused because he thought it might have been from a train that had derailed, but then found out it came from Palmer’s chocolate factory—a place well-known in West Reading. He even mentioned how ‘everyone knows about Palmer chocolate’.

R.M. Palmer has been making chocolate novelties for over 70 years and they currently have 850 employees at their headquarters in West Reading. On their Facebook page, recently they advertised Easter treats like bunnies made of chocolate with jelly beans inside the hollow center. While R.M. Palmer is a big name in chocolate, other bigger companies like Hershey are even closer – about an hour away to the west!

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