Officials in the northeast Kansas town of Atchison said a grain elevator explosion killed at least three workers.

Besides the three workers confirmed dead, three people remain unaccounted for and two others are hospitalized in critical condition following the Saturday night explosion.

Atchison City Manager Trey Cocking says officials are weighing whether it's safe to send fire teams into the facility, which sustained significant damage.

Among the missing are one worker from the elevator company and two state grain inspectors.

Two other victims who were admitted to the burn unit of University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, KS, were listed in critical condition Sunday morning.

Cocking says four other people associated with the explosion escaped without injuries.

With smoke continuing to billow from the top of the grain elevator Sunday morning, police were keeping people at least a quarter-mile away from the facility.

Authorities searched overnight for victims in the rubble of the Bartlett Grain. This is a busy time of the year for grain elevators because of crop harvest.

City Manager Troy Cocking said Saturday night that officials want to talk to family members before confirming the number of those killed or injured in the explosion.

The Atchison hospital has been flooded with people trying to determine if their loved ones have been injured.

Some residents have reported their windows were rattled by the explosion, which occurred about 7 p.m. Saturday. Items were knocked off the shelves at a nearby convenience store.

Viewers who live miles away tell KCTV5 they heard a loud boom. The city of Atchison said on its website that the percussion could be felt at least three miles away.

First responders from both Kansas and Missouri have rushed to the scene.

The city of Atchison said on its website that stored grain can generate toxic gases or dangerous molds.

"Milled grain can be explosive under certain conditions," according to the city's website. "Rescue operations can be difficult because workers are often scattered throughout the facility, making them difficult to locate."

Copyright 2011 KCTV. All rights reserved.


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