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9 dead in wall collapse as torrential rains batter Dominican Republic

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At least nine people died when a concrete wall collapsed in a tunnel on a busy avenue in Santo Domingo on Saturday, Nov. 18. The incident is a result of heavy rains and floods caused by a tropical disturbance impacting the western Caribbean.

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The Caribbean country’s government is facing criticism as experts, including civil engineer Cristian Rojas, had warned over 20 years ago about the design weaknesses and lack of efforts to address them. Rojas told The Associated Press, “It has weaknesses in the design. No anchors were placed, and that is why the wall collapsed.”

The wall that collapsed late Saturday afternoon is part of the infrastructure designed to speed up traffic. Despite emergency alerts, many cars were still driving in the area during the flooding.

Compounding the situation, damaged pipes released water into the tunnel, complicating rescue efforts.

Delfin Rodriguez, deputy director of Civil Defense Operations, informed the AP that officials discovered “about nine bodies” in the area.

The victims have not yet been identified.

The president of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader, emphasized the need to address climate change seriously after heavy rains claimed the lives of at least 21 people across the country and displaced thousands. More than 13,000 individuals had to relocate to safer areas according to the country’s Emergency Operations Center (COE) on Sunday.

Abinader said it is the “largest rainfall event ever” in the history of the Dominican Republic.

“Those who do not believe in climate change, start believing,” Abinader said, while addressing the “extensive and substantial” damages.

According to COE, 2,541 people were rescued in the El Bajo Yuna community and other towns in the Sánchez Ramírez province. Additionally, 31 of 32 provinces are under emergency alert.

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