SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — A concrete wall along an avenue in the Dominican Republic's capital that collapsed over the weekend and killed nine people during heavy rains was poorly designed, experts said Monday.
The government of the Caribbean country has come under scrutiny, with experts saying they had warned more than 20 years ago about the wall’s failures and lack of effort to fix them.
“It has weaknesses in the design,” civil engineer Cristian Rojas told The Associated Press. “No anchors were placed, and that is why the wall collapsed.”
Rojas, former president of the Dominican College of Engineers, Architects and Surveyors, said the force of the water in a flooded adjacent avenue, combined with the type of wall that was built, led to the collapse.
Dominican geologist Osiris de Léon recalled that the first warnings about the wall were made more than two decades ago. He posted a story from December 1999 on X, formerly known as Twitter, in which El Siglo newspaper quoted the college recommending that the wall be rebuilt because it was cracked and “it can fall and cause a tragic accident.”
The collapse occurred Saturday in Santo Domingo when a portion of the wall that runs along the heavily transited 27 of February Avenue fell in one piece, crushing cars and their occupants, authorities said.
Among the victims was Puerto Rico prosecutor Michael Orozco, his wife, María Nereida Martínez, and his in-laws, according to Javier Rivera, president of the island’s Association of Prosecutors. Martínez was pregnant.
“Comrade Orozco was living a wonderful personal moment with his family, and as a young, committed lawyer, a promising future awaited him,” Rivera said.
Also killed was Dominican Police Gen. Eduardo Cabrera Castillo, authorities said.
Andrés Matos, spokesman for the Ministry of Public Works, rejected accusations that the government did not properly maintain the wall and nearby infrastructure.
“These tunnels and overpasses are given permanent maintenance,” Matos told the AP. He attributed the collapse to other causes but declined to provide details.
“The ministry is ordering a deep, structuralist investigation, which implies that we should not get ahead of the causes,” he said.
The collapse occurred as a tropical disturbance moved through the western Caribbean, battering the Dominican Republic with heavy rains over the weekend. Authorities said at least 24 people died, including those crushed by the wall.
The storm tore tin roofs off hundreds of homes and cut off access to nearly a dozen communities, authorities said.
Officials in neighboring Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, said four people died and another two are missing. Dozens of people remained in shelters after the storm flooded hundreds of homes and cut off several communities, they said.
Associated Press reporter Dánica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed.