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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Death toll rises to 27 as Dominican firefighters find more bodies in this week’s explosion

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SANTO DOMINGO, Aug 16 (AP): The death toll from this week’s powerful explosion in the
Dominican Republic rose to 27 on Wednesday as firefighters continued efforts to extinguish the
persistent fire set off by the blast, the national emergency director said.
Juan Manuel Méndez, director of the Centre of Emergency Operations, also said there were no
longer any people believed missing. Earlier, authorities cited 10 missing but said that would change
as forensic officials identified bodies found by search teams.
Firefighters still have not been able to fully put out the fires in a building where the explosion
occurred Monday at a bakery in the city of San Cristobal, which lies just west of the capital of Santo
Domingo.
Anguished friends and family have been pacing outside hospitals and morgues in anger and
frustration, saying no one has been providing them information.
Meanwhile, authorities are probing what might have caused the explosion, vowing to crack down on
any business that might not have been following regulations.
Ito Bisonó, minister of industry and commerce, told reporters that officials already have determined
there were no tanks of any type in the area, adding that he is waiting on authorities to investigate
what happened.
“It was of great magnitude,” he said of the explosion.
Bisonó spoke inside a cathedral in San Cristobal that held a service Wednesday for those who died,
with mourners dressed largely in white filling the building to standing room only.
Méndez, said at a news conference late Tuesday that if an unidentified factory was operating
illegally as some residents have alleged, the investigation would shed light on that.
“If there is some type of culpability or not, the investigation will determine that,” he said. “We will
take legal action.”
At least 59 people were injured in the blast, which occurred in a bustling commercial area in the
city’s centre and destroyed four buildings and damaged nine others. More than 30 people remain
hospitalised with conditions including fractures, burns and respiratory problems. Two firefighters
also were treated for smoke inhalation.
More than 30 ambulances and some 500 personnel including rescuers and officials responded to the
incident.
Toxic smoke still hovered over the explosion site, with health officials urging people to wear face
masks.
San Cristobal, the birthplace of dictator Rafael Trujillo, was the site of another explosion nearly 23
years ago. An arms depot exploded in October 2000, killing at least two people and injured more
than two dozen others, forcing authorities to evacuate thousands.

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