Chocolate factory blast in Pennsylvania kills two; five missing

(Reuters) - An explosion at a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania has killed two people with five others missing as rescue workers search through debris for survivors, emergency services said on Saturday.

The blast occurred on Friday at the R.M. Palmer Company plant in West Reading, a town about 60 miles (97 km) northwest of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) said.

PEMA said an investigation would be conducted to determine the cause of the explosion, and that an initial incident report included reference to a gas leak. Seven other people were transported to local hospitals with injuries, PEMA added.

R.M. Palmer Company said its email and phone systems were down following the blast and that it was relying on emergency authorities to get in touch with employees and their families.

"We will be providing additional information and making contact with employees, impacted families, and the community as soon as possible," the company said in a statement.

The company did not provide a cause for the explosion or offer other details.

Images on social media of the explosion's aftermath showed a vast pile of debris and massive flames letting off large plumes of thick black smoke, in a downtown area surrounded by other buildings.

R.M. Palmer Company was founded in 1948. It employs some 850 people and creates 500 unique chocolate and candy products, according to its website.

(Reporting by Rami Ayyub in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)