Authorities say the death toll from a powerful explosion near the Dominican Republic’s capital has risen to 10 as firefighters search through smoldering rubble.
More than 50 people were also injured in Monday’s explosion at a busy shopping center in the city of San Cristóbal, said minister in charge of the presidency, Joel Santos. Mr Santos said at least 36 injured people were still hospitalized.
President Luís Abinader visited San Cristóbal, located just west of Santo Domingo, on Tuesday and said 11 more people were missing, adding that authorities were still trying to put out the blaze amid Collapsed buildings and burned vehicles.
“We are doing everything we can… to investigate the situation of the 11 missing people,” he said. “Finding survivors has been very difficult.”
Health Secretary Daniel Rivera said authorities were still unable to reach “zero ground” where the explosion occurred because it was still burning.
The country’s emergency phone system said the explosion occurred at a bakery in the city centre, a bustling area known as the ‘Old Market’, where people shop for goods ranging from vegetables to pants. shirt. The fire then spread to a nearby hardware store and a nearby furniture store.
Among the victims were a 4-month-old baby who died of head injuries and a woman who worked at a bank, officials said.
José Ramón Ramírez Rivera, owner of a local veterinary clinic, told reporters that one of his 15 employees is still missing. “An office wall fell on me,” he recalls. “I can not breathe.”
Smoke still blanketed downtown on Tuesday and Rivera urged people to wear masks. “This smoke is mixed with chemicals,” he warned.
Rivera said he and other officials will go door-to-door to make sure everyone is wearing a mask and to determine if they have respiratory or skin problems. He also had to visit patients at a local hospital, where people were still searching for loved ones. “The first 24 hours are crucial,” he said, adding that the injuries included burns, broken bones and difficulty breathing.
Abinader said the government will set up two mobile hospitals to continue treatment, including psychological services, for those affected.
Meanwhile, Mr. Santos said the government was conducting an investigation to determine whether the company where the explosion occurred was operating under current regulations. The cause of the explosion was unclear and authorities did not provide a preliminary damage estimate.