Disasters & Accidents

Dominican Republic mourns deaths caused by historic rains

Santo Domingo, 20 Nov (EFE). – The Dominican Republic on Monday began the first of three days of national mourning for the at least 24 deaths caused by the torrential rains that fell over the weekend, considered the heaviest ever recorded in the country.

The consequences of the rains are evident on the island, and at the weekly presidential press conference on Monday, Luis Abinader announced that although the damage is still being evaluated, it “will be extensive,” especially in the public works and agricultural sectors.

In addition to the 24 deaths officially confirmed and already identified, a number that could be higher, there are 17,855 people displaced (879 of them in shelters), 3,571 homes affected, 45 isolated towns and eight roads and six bridges damaged (one of them collapsed), according to the latest bulletin from the Emergency Operations Center (COE).

In addition, several electricity systems are out of service, although, as Abinader explained, the electricity companies have restored service to over 95 percent percent of customers.

117 out of 243 aqueducts remain inactive as a precautionary measure to protect the system, but they will be operational in a week as the flooding recedes.

Earlier, the COE reported about the drinking water supply that 2,857 customers (0.28% of the subscribers) were affected in the south of the country and 12,136 customers (1.52%) in the east, while 1.6 million users were affected.

During the weekend, rains reached 431 millimeters in certain areas of the south and southwest of the country and in Santo Domingo, which represents “the event with the highest rainfall in 24 hours in the Dominican Republic,” Abinader stressed.

Trying to return to normality

Faced with the situation created, the work of the different organizations is multiplying to try to get the country back to normal and also to prevent diseases.

“We will reach everyone who needs it,” said the President.

Thus, in the heart of Santo Domingo, workers are working on the railroad crossing whose walls fell on Saturday, trapping five vehicles and causing the death of nine people, four of them Puerto Ricans.

Further along the highway that connects Santo Domingo to the tourist peninsula of Samaná (northeast of the Dominican Republic), the water is flooding everything and about 145 kilometers from the capital, the military is preventing traffic on that highway, as EFE was able to verify.

Specifically, it is closed from a toll station in the municipality of Naranjal (Monte Plata province, neighboring Santo Domingo) that is used by thousands of people every day. EFE was able to access a few meters and see how all the fields on the sides of the road are flooded.

In addition to the three days of mourning declared by Abinader, several measures have been taken, such as the suspension of classes in some centers until Wednesday to evaluate the state of the schools, while health units are being checked and attempts are being made to control traffic in Santo Domingo.

Preparing for the effects of climate change

These are urgent measures, but Abinader pointed out that we must prepare for the future because, he said, “this will happen again” due to the climate crisis.

“The country must be aware that this impact, this climate change, is a reality with unpredictable, intense and out-of-season phenomena” like those being experienced now, warned the president, who presented a series of projects in this regard.

Specifically, a special fund will be created for the prevention, mitigation and adaptation to climate change in the Dominican Republic, with resources from the government and international funds that will go beyond the issue of infrastructure.

An independent commission will also be created immediately to monitor infrastructure in the face of climate change.

In addition, the existing weather radar in Punta Cana (east of the country) will be joined next year by another in Santo Domingo (south) and a third in Puerto Plata (north), a triangulation that will allow control of the entire island. EFE

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