CHICAGO — Three people were dead and three others missing following a massive explosion at a grain storage facility in the midwestern state of Kansas, a fire official told AFP Sunday.

The huge blast late Saturday at a grain elevator at the Bartlett Grain Company in the town of Atchison could be felt as far as three miles (five kilometers) away.

There was no immediate cause given for the explosion, although officials said it might have been the result of toxic gases or dangerous molds that can accumulate over time when milled grain is stored.

News reports said the search for survivors had been temporarily suspended out of concern for the safety of rescuers.

Officials in the town of Atchison said workers are often scattered in different parts of the facility, making the search more difficult.

Local broadcaster KWCH television meanwhile reported that two of the surviving blast victims were in hospitalized in critical condition after being admitted to the burn unit of University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City.

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

Officials said four people managed to escape Saturday's blast without injury.

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