At Least 21 Dead In Torrential Dominican Republic Rains

(AFP) – At least 21 people, including three children, died after heavy rainfall inundated the Dominican Republic over the weekend, authorities said Sunday, warning the downpours were linked to worsening climate change.

Torrential storms over the past 48 hours have caused flooding, damaged infrastructure and brought down houses in the Caribbean nation, in what President Luis Abinader has called the “largest rainfall event ever” in the country’s history.

“Those who do not believe in climate change, start believing,” said Abinader, who spoke of “extensive and substantial” damages, though without detailing precise figures.

The rains, from a tropical depression, are expected to continue across portions of the country for the next 24 hours, the US embassy said in a weather alert.

In one particularly deadly incident, a wall collapsed Sunday onto several vehicles travelling on a major avenue in the capital, Santo Domingo, killing nine.

The water “infiltrated a saturated subsoil,” and the foundation of the concrete wall gave way, the Ministry of Public Works said Sunday.

An investigation into the incident has been ordered by the ministry.

Nine other people died in separate instances in Santo Domingo on the same day. Others have died after being swept away by flood waters.

Some 13,000 people have been evacuated across the country, according to the Emergency Operations Center, and a majority of the nation’s 32 provinces are under an alert designation.

Some areas are seeing electricity and drinking water outages.

Classes have been suspended until Wednesday, Abinader said, “in order to evaluate the schools that may have been affected” and “guarantee the safety of our young people.”

Four of the dead are US nationals, and three are from neighbouring Haiti.

At the end of August, the passage of storm Franklin through the Dominican Republic left two dead and one missing, and forced the evacuation of some 3,000 people from areas in dangerous conditions.