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Gas leak blamed in deadly blast at Dominican Republic blow molder


Photo by Erika Santelices/AFP/Getty Images A rescuer runs amid the rubble following an explosion at Polyplas Dominicana, a blow molder in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on Dec. 5, 2018. At least four people were killed, including the production manager, and another 40 were injured.

A deadly explosion at one of the Caribbean region's major suppliers of PET preforms and bottles 5 Dec, was triggered by a seepage of liquid petroleum gas, the head of the island republic's fire service said.

Rafael del Rosario, head of Santo Domingo's fire brigade, the Cuerpo de Bomberos del Distrito Nacional, told reporters late on 5 Dec that workers failed to turn off a boiler while the LPG was being delivered at the manufacturing plant as they should have done. The LPG trickled into a boiler and caught fire, he said.

However, in a communiqué sent to local newspapers by Polyplas’s director of corporate affairs, álvaro Sousa, the company rejected Del Rosario’s explanation as to the cause of the explosion and added that Polyplas exercises “strict security protocols.” He said the company would await the conclusions of an investigation into the disaster.

The massive blast occurred shortly before midday at Polyplas Dominicana, a preform and bottle supplier owned by diversified business group Diesco Ltd. It killed at least four people, including Polyplas's production manager, and wounded 40 others, some of them seriously.

The extent of the damage to the plant and surrounding areas was still unclear early on 6 Dec, but Del Rosario said "dozens of homes, stores and schools" were impacted and their occupants had been evacuated.

"The expansive nature of the blast smashed windows on buildings and automobiles," he said. Injuries to Polyplas employees and neighbours ranged from severe burns to cuts and bruises — caused by flying glass and debris.

Manuel Diez Cabral, Diesco's CEO and chairman, could not be reached for comment on as of 6 Dec, and the company's telephones in the capital rang unanswered.

Headquartered in Santo Domingo, Diesco claims on its website to be the largest diversified group of companies in the Caribbean, employing about 1,200 and occupying 100,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space.

It has four business divisions: packaging, beverages, project management and capital and financial investment.

The packaging division comprises two companies: Polyplas Dominicana, which was founded in 1966, and Termopac Industrial. Polyplas has injection moulding, blow moulding and plastic printing operations. It produces, among other products, PET preforms, 16, 32 and 64 ounce PET bottles, medicinal bottles and 5-gallon bottles made of polycarbonate and PET primarily for the grocery, personal and household care and automotive lubricant sectors.

The beverages business unit, PacTech International, was launched on the neighbouring island of Puerto Rico, in the mid-1990s. According to Diesco, it is the largest local manufacturer and bottler of non-alcoholic drinks on Puerto Rico. Its brands include Cristalia Premium Water, the assets of which it acquired in 2012.

In the private brand market, PTI supplies large North American retailers including Walmart, Sam's, Walgreens, Costco and Kmart.