SANTO DOMINGO – The number of fatalities in the Dec. 5 explosion at a plastics factory in the Dominican capital increased to eight on Monday, following the death of one of two patients who remained hospitalized in critical condition.
The deceased was identified as Rafael Contreras Baez, 55, who had suffered second- and third-degree burns.
Contreras died Monday night while being treated in the burn unit at Ney Arias Lora Hospital in Santo Domingo, the hospital administration said.
The other patient who was admitted to the hospital after the explosion remains in critical condition, although in the past few hours he has showed a slight improvement, the hospital added.
Last Wednesday’s blast at the Polyplas factory in the Villas Agricolas district was felt in several nearby areas, and both the explosion and subsequent fire left dozens of people injured.
Several homes were destroyed and two hospitals and five schools suffered significant damage.
Dominican Attorney General Jean Alain Rodriguez told reporters that the incident will be investigated to determine “if there could be any kind of criminal (liability).”
A Santo Domingo fire department report released on Monday said that the explosion resulted from a natural gas leak that occurred when the fuel was being transferred to the company’s main gas storage tank.
The department also found that the gas tank was located in a common area, close to the boiler, but it could not be proved whether there was a containment wall there or an automatic fire suppression system.
In a paid ad published Monday in local newspapers, the company explained that the truck that unloaded the fuel was the source of the natural gas leak that caused the explosion.
At the same time, it noted that “thanks to (Polyplas’s) rapid security measures ... implemented from the moment of the gas leak, the (other) boilers did not explode and neither did the gas tank located in our facilities.”
The company also emphasized its evacuation protocol, which, according to the statement, enabled 282 of the 289 people who were at the factory at the time of the explosion to be evacuated.