Original post: Recovery efforts following the explosion at the R.M. Palmer building #2, 17 South 2nd Ave., in West Reading Friday evening are still underway Saturday mid-day. Officials held a press conference Saturday morning with the message that progress is being made.
During the overnight recovery efforts, one person was located alive in the rubble. West Reading Chief of Police, Wayne Holben, says rescue workers continue to search for any other possible survivors. “Right now they are moving debris, as methodically as possible, utilizing K-9’s, and imaging equipment to help in the recovery.”
Officials confirmed that two people have died, five are still unaccounted for and eight were initially transported to the hospital Friday after sustaining injuries from the blast.
“The discovery of life overnight provides hope that others still may be found” said Holben.
West Reading Mayor, Samantha Kaag, has issued a Declaration of Emergency for the Borough of West Reading in an effort to increase on-site resources. “To the residents of the Borough, I’d like directly to address the concerns of safety. This declaration is strictly to access more resources for emergency responders on-scene.”
Kaag continued, “search and rescue efforts continue to push forward, the community has continued to support the victims. Our Borough employees, elected officials, and neighboring agencies continue to work diligently on the back end to support as needed.”
“Thank you everyone for your support and understanding at this time, I’m very proud of our community, of Berks County, West Reading, and I am honored to be your mayor. We are all in this together.”
When ask how first responders are holding up, Holben responded, “they are doing well, we are rotating individuals out as best we can. We are getting a lot of help from outside agencies, which we appreciate, and it is helping to keep officers fresh at the scene.”
Vice President of Borough Council, Phil Wert, said R.M. Palmer has had a presence in the borough for decades, with the building constructed in the early 1960s. The company owns several buildings on-site, which are used as a production facility for candy.
“We did have to access our archives to pull blueprints last night in order to get a better layout of the building and the mechanicals, utilities and where things are” Wert said.
Kaag says Reading Hospital as setup a dedicated room for victims and families to gather, including the availability of a grief counselor.
R.M. Palmer is expected to make their own statement on the incident Saturday.
Official do not believe the weather will impede the recovery efforts. Several roads surrounding the scene will continue to be closed.
Officials have not released any information on the cause of the explosion. Updates on the recovery efforts will be provided as more information becomes available.