October 30, 2011 / 1:26 PM / 9 years ago

Three dead, 3 missing in Kansas grain elevator blast

KANSAS CITY, Mo (Reuters) - Three people were dead, three missing and two hospitalized after an explosion at a large grain elevator in Atchison, Kansas, City Manager Trey Cocking said on Sunday.

The three missing workers were presumed dead, Cocking said, adding their whereabouts within the wreckage were still unknown.

“At this time we feel it is a recovery effort,” Cocking said.

Rescues can be difficult because workers are usually scattered throughout the facility, he said.

The blast at about 7 p.m on Saturday could be felt at least three miles away, Cocking said. The elevator is owned by Bartlett Grain Co.

There were 12 workers on site during the blast, he said.

Four people at the elevator escaped injury in the blast, Cocking said at a news conference. The injured were taken to area hospitals.

The search for the three missing workers was halted twice, Cocking said.

Workers searched the debris from late on Saturday night through roughly 2:30 on Sunday morning, when the search was halted for safety concerns. The search was resumed on Sunday morning. It was later halted as workers awaited a site safety check by federal safety regulators and a structural engineer.

The elevator is located between a railroad track and the Missouri River in Atchison, about 50 miles northwest of Kansas City.

Cocking said the explosion’s cause was unknown, but a statement on the city website said stored grain can create toxic gases sometimes vulnerable to explosion.

In video footage from a television helicopter, the top of the towering, multi-silo elevator could be seen covered with debris created by the blast.

There is no threat to public safety, Cocking said.

Reporting by Kevin Murphy; Additional reporting by Eric Johnson in Chicago; Editing by Jerry Norton

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