SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Authorities in the Dominican Republic said on Thursday that it could take months to identify all of the 28 victims who died in a powerful explosion near the country's capital this week.
The announcement came as friends and family keep trying to confirm whether their loved ones died in Monday's explosion at a bakery in the city of San Cristobal, just west of Santo Domingo.
Authorities in the Dominican Republic said a patient in an intensive care unit has died, raising the death toll to 28. Fifty-nine people were injured, with the majority of them still hospitalized.
The explosion took place mid-afternoon in a bustling commercial area in the city center, filled with businesses, including a bank and a hardware store.
An investigation is still underway as to what caused the explosion, and authorities have said they will hold accountable any business that was not operating properly. It took firefighters three days to extinguish the blaze, which officials said spread from the bakery to the hardware store next door, and then to a nearby furniture store.
Only seven of the bodies found have been identified and turned over to their families, Santo Jiménez, a forensics institute director, said at a news conference. It may take up to three months to identify some of the victims, he said. Authorities are working with family and friends who could provide helpful details such as any presence of tattoos or scars, he added.
Jiménez said only one body of the 20 that remain at the morgue is intact.
Monday marked the second time that San Cristobal, the birthplace of dictator Rafael Trujillo, was affected by a major explosion. An arms depot exploded in October 2000, killing at least two people and injured more than two dozen others, forcing authorities to evacuate thousands.