More bodies have been found as emergency crews continue to survey the site of the R.M. chocolate factory in Berks County, Pennsylvania, bringing the number of fatalities from Friday evening’s explosion to seven.
West Reading Mayor Samantha Kaag released a statement Sunday that said two more bodies were located and that all victims have been discovered. Authorities are withholding their names at this time, she said.
“Tonight we were able to announce that all seven presumptive missing have been found — please understand that this is still a devastating loss,” she wrote. “But we are truly grateful to bring closure to the families involved in the upcoming days.”
Earlier in the day, a fifth body was pulled from the rubble, after authorities initially confirmed four people were dead, and another three were still missing.
PENNSYLVANIA CHOCOLATE FACTORY EXPLOSION LEAVES FIVE DEAD, TWO MISSING: REPORT
An explosion on Friday leveled R.M. Palmer building 2 and damaged building 1, but its cause is still unknown.
At least 10 people were injured, she said.
“We did not and will not announce any names of the identified victims until we know for certain that their family has been contacted, they have had time to process, and have been able to reach out to other loved ones to let those close to them know,” a statement from the mayor read.
The mayor also said three buildings around the site of the explosion would be condemned as officials investigate what caused the explosion and how to prevent such an incident in the future.
“This does not mean they are slated for demolition or uninhabitable — simply that there will still be work happening around them as we proceed and will need to be looked at further by structural engineers before being released,” the statement continued.
The neighboring structures were identified as the C&S medical supply, Palmer Building #1, and an apartment building and a church located at the corner of Penn. and 2nd Street.
The streets around the explosion site also remain closed at this time.
The mayor also announced the community would be holding a candlelight vigil for the victims at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, March 31.
“We are still working diligently behind the scenes – please utilize us for resources if you were affected – I truly mean it when I say I am so proud of the community, the county, and I am so honored to be the Mayor of West Reading,” Kaag said on social media.
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She added: “The investigation efforts will now be underway and we can find answers to how this happened and how/if we can prevent it from happening in the future.”
“Please be patient and respectful as we work with the county to get the families information, closure, and resources for now and the foreseeable future,” the mayor said.
Kaag concluded, “As I said tonight — this is just the beginning as the investigation efforts start and elected officials work to get resources for the victims’ families, emergency crews, and the borough. We will continue to work diligently to get in contact with families on a personal level and provide them and anyone affected resources. I think I speak for everyone around me when I say that we will rest when the families can rest.”
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Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro visited the explosion site on Saturday and announced additional resources would be made available for first responders amid ongoing recovery and rescue efforts.
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