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Catastrophic flooding in Dominican Republic after ‘largest rainfall event ever’ – 24 fatalities, 1.1 million without drinking water

Catastrophic flooding in Dominican Republic after 'largest rainfall event ever' f

The Dominican Republic has been severely impacted by a tropical disturbance that brought record-breaking rainfall and catastrophic flooding across various regions.

  • The capital Santo Domingo and several provinces including San José de Ocoa, Duarte, El Seibo, La Altagracia, San Cristobal, and San Pedro De Macoris are among the hardest hit.
  • Infrastructure damage includes over 2 600 houses, 5 bridges, and 6 roads, with 45 communities isolated.
  • President Luis Abinader has described this event as the “largest rainfall event ever” in the nation’s history, with record-breaking figures reported by the Oficina Nacional de Meteorologia (ONAMET).

As of November 19, 2023, the Health Ministry has confirmed 21 deaths due to extreme weather conditions since Friday, November 17. Among the tragic incidents, a retaining wall collapse along a highway in Santo Domingo claimed nine lives. The Emergency Operations Center (COE) has reported additional fatalities in the La Zurza and Arroyo Hondo districts, with one person perishing in Higüey Debido, La Altagracia, after being swept away by floodwaters.

The impact of the torrential rains is widespread, affecting the National District and several provinces including San José de Ocoa, Duarte, El Seibo, La Altagracia, San Cristobal, and San Pedro De Macoris. According to the COE, 2 644 houses have been damaged, with 17 completely destroyed. The infrastructure has also taken a significant hit, with five bridges and six roads damaged, leaving 45 communities isolated. Rescue operations have been intensive, with emergency teams successfully evacuating over 13 000 people to safer areas and rescuing 2 541 individuals from perilous situations.

Dominican President Luis Abinader has described this event as the “largest rainfall event ever” in the country’s history. The Oficina Nacional de Meteorologia (ONAMET) reported 431 mm (16.9 inches) of rain in some parts of the National District – a figure that dwarfs the 266 mm (10.4 inches) recorded on November 4, 2022.

Other areas like Villa Altagracia and Barahona’s Polo and Paraiso also saw substantial rainfall, exceeding 200 mm (7.8 inches). In response to the crisis, President Abinader has suspended classes until Wednesday to ensure the safety of students and to assess the damage to educational facilities. He also expressed his condolences and support to those affected via X, formerly Twitter.

Four US nationals and three Haitians are among those deceased, as reported by AFP news agency. The US embassy has warned of continued rainfall in the region, indicating that the situation could worsen before it improves.

A majority of the country’s 32 provinces are under red and yellow weather alerts, as the government and emergency services continue their efforts to mitigate the impact of this unprecedented natural disaster.

Heavy rains from the same system are also affecting Haiti and Cuba.

Update

November 23

The UN Country Team in the Dominican Republic (UNCT Dominican Republic) reported 24 fatalities, more than 17 845 evacuated people and almost 2 587 rescued people across Santo Domingo, San Cristóbal, Azua and Duarte Provinces (central Dominican Republic), as of November 21.

In addition, 3 571 houses have been affected in 45 communities.

So far 1.1 million people cannot access drinking water, DG ECHO reports.

References:

1 Dominican Republic: At least 21 dead after storm brings torrential rain – BBC – November 20, 2023

2 Dominican Republic – 21 Dead After “Highest Ever Rainfall Total” Triggers Floods and Landslides – FloodList – November 20, 2023

Featured image credit: Disaster Tracker (stillshot)

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