The president of the Dominican Republic has insisted that climate change must be taken seriously after heavy rains killed at least 21 people and displaced thousands more.
More than 13,000 people have had to move to more secure areas after torrential rains over the previous 48 hours flooded homes, caused power outages and damaged bridges and roads, the Caribbean country’s Emergency Operations Center (COE) said on Sunday. At least 21 people have lost their lives, the COE added.
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The storm’s victims include nine people who died on Saturday after rains caused the wall of a highway tunnel to collapse onto their cars in the capital, Santa Domingo, according to the national police.
The water “infiltrated a saturated subsoil” and the foundation of the concrete wall gave way, the Ministry of Public Works said on the following day.
An investigation into the incident has been ordered, while the majority of the nation’s 32 provinces remain under an alert designation.
Videos on social media showed rushing water dragging cars down streets and flooded buildings.
‘Largest rainfall event ever’
President Luis Abinader said it is the “largest rainfall event ever” in the Dominican Republic’s history.
“Those who do not believe in climate change, start believing,” said Abinader, who spoke of “extensive and substantial” damages.
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”.
The rains, from a tropical depression, are expected to continue across portions of the country for the next 24 hours, the United States embassy said in a weather alert.
More than 2,500 people had to be rescued by protection agencies, and some 2,600 homes had been affected by the storm, the COE said.
Forty-five communities were without communication as of Sunday afternoon, according to the COE report.
At the end of August, the passage of Tropical Storm Franklin through the Dominican Republic killed two people, left one missing, and forced the evacuation of some 3,000 people from areas in dangerous conditions.