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Seven dead following US chocolate factory explosion

27 March 2023

An explosion at a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania, US killed seven people on March 24. The incident happened at a plant owned by chocolate manufacturer R.M. Palmer in the town of West Reading, around 60 miles (97km) northwest of Philadelphia.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

The explosion occurred at around 17:00 local time and initially left two people dead and five missing. Rescue crews began searching rubble with the help of dogs and equipment for survivors and managed to pull one person alive from the scene. Crews worked through the night and throughout March 25 & 26 to find the remaining workers. The bodies of the five missing people were eventually discovered on March 27.

Images of the scene posted on social media show a large pile of debris and rubble after part of the facility collapsed. A fire, which was quickly extinguished, can also be seen letting off a plume of dark smoke. The R.M. Palmer facility is located in the downtown area of West Reading and therefore surrounded by other buildings. Officials said the explosion destroyed one building and damaged three other nearby buildings which would be condemned as a precaution.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) said that an investigation would begin immediately, and that initial reports indicate there may have been a gas leak on the premises.

In a statement on its website, R.M. Palmer said it was devastated by the tragic event and would coordinate closely with local authorities and agencies in the recovery process.

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