The toll in the Caribbean from Tropical Storm Olga, a rare December cyclone, has risen to 25 confirmed deaths, officials say.
Hardest-hit was the Dominican Republic, where 22 people were killed by floods and landslides. The majority died in the northern city of Santiago, after officials, fearing a collapse of a dam, released water in the already swollen Yaque River. Two people died in the neighbouring Haiti and one in Puerto Rico.
The storm slammed into the region on Tuesday – 10 days after the official end of the Atlantic hurricane season. Olga later weakened to a tropical depressing as it moved west toward Cuba, the US National Hurricane Center said.
Anger in Santiago
In the Dominican Republic, at least 17 people were killed and a number were still missing after the Yaque River burst its banks in of Santiago, officials said. It happened after local officials ordered the release of billions of gallons of water from the near-capacity Tavera Dam, sending huge waves crashing into parts of the country’s second-largest city.
Furious residents later said officials had warned them just minutes before the water was released. “They warned us but there was no time… everybody was sleeping,” Sonia Duran Maldonado told the Associated Press news agency. “They must beg our forgiveness for what has happened,” she added. Five more people were killed in other parts of the Dominican Republic, and some 7,000 houses were damaged. Two people died and a number of houses were destroyed in Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Rico, one man was killed by a rain-triggered landslide, officials said.
The storm also left tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans without power or water. Olga spared south-western areas of the Dominican Republic hit by Tropical Storm Noel six weeks ago, where dozens of people were killed. It was only the 10th named storm to develop after the official end of the Atlantic hurricane season since records began in 1851.