Thousands marched through Bucharest calling for PM Victor Ponta to resign
32 people were killed and more than 100 injured in deadly nightclub blaze
Romania’s Prime Minister Victor Ponta announced his resignation Wednesday, acknowledging “legitimate” public anger over a Bucharest nightclub fire that killed 32 people.
Ponta made the announcement at a press conference Wednesday morning, hours after thousands had marched in the streets of the capital, demanding the resignation of Ponta and other political leaders over Friday’s nightclub disaster.
“I must admit that there is a legitimate anger in our society and also a legitimate urge to take bigger responsibility than the owners of that nightclub. People want more than that and, for me, it would be a big error to ignore it,” Ponta told reporters.
“I think it is not fair to throw this responsibility on emergency teams or on mayors, state secretaries or ministers. I, myself, am ready to do this gesture demanded by a large part of our society,” he said. “Starting from today, I depose my mandate as prime minister, and the mandate of Romania’s government.”
He said transitional arrangements would be made before a new government could take office.
Three of the nightclub’s owners – Costin Mincu, Alin George Anastasescu and Paul Gancea – have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office told CNN.
Venue ‘completely unfit’
The blaze at the Colectiv nightclub – which authorities say also left 134 victims hospitalized, many of them with serious injuries – sent shock waves through Romania and unleashed public anger toward authorities.
Hundreds of young people had gathered in the basement club in central Bucharest on Friday for a free concert by a heavy metal band when the fire broke out. Eyewitnesses said many in the crowd believed the initial moments of the fire were part of the show.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis described the venue as “completely unfit,” while the head of the country’s department of emergency situations, Dr. Raed Arafat, said that fire officials had not issued any permits for a gathering of that size or for the use of fireworks.
Marchers at a memorial for the victims Sunday carried banners reading “Corruption, greed and indifference kill Romania.”
Ponta had previously faced calls for his resignation when he was investigated over allegations of corruption.
Cosmin Stan and CNN’s Amy Payne, Greg Botelho, Steve Almasy, Elwyn Lopez and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.