Dominican authorities announced late Friday that they are pursuing a criminal case against a plastics company based on evidence found during an investigation into a powerful explosion this week that killed at least 31 people.
Police and the Public Ministry issued a joint statement saying the blast occurred at a business called Vidal Plast, rather than at a bakery as authorities had said initially. The explosion occurred week ago Monday in a bustling commercial center in San Cristobal, a city just west of the capital of Santo Domingo.
“The Public Ministry has evidence that compromises the criminal responsibility of those responsible who, with their actions, caused the death of dozens of people and caused millions in losses,” the statement said, citing prosecutor Fadulia Rosa Rubio.
The ministry said it was investigating several people, but did not identify them.
The owners of Vidal Plast could not be immediately reached for comment. The company recycles, buys and sells plastic materials, officials said.
Authorities also said they have evidence that there was a fire at the business in March caused by a spark and a chemical substance and that the company did not take any measures “despite knowing the high risk of its operations.”
Víctor Bisonó, the minister of industry and commerce, told reporters that the municipality had closed the factory in the past, but he did not provide more details.
N Digital, a respected online newspaper in the Dominican Republic, reported that the company was founded in 2003. It quoted one of the company’s founders as saying that the factory was not operating and that two of its employees were simply removing material from the site when the explosion occurred, with one of then being killed.
Officials on Friday also raised the number of dead to 31 from 28. They said seven of the dead had been identified so far. On Thursday, the government said it could take up to three months to identify all those killed in the blast.
An additional 59 people were injured in the blast, and the majority remain hospitalized.
San Cristobal, the birthplace of dictator Rafael Trujillo, was the site of another explosion nearly 23 years ago. An arms depot blew up in October 2000, killing at least two people and injured more than two dozen, forcing authorities to evacuate thousands.