Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta has stepped down after thousands marched in protests calling for his resignation, blaming government corruption and poor safety oversight for the 32 deaths in a fire at a metal gig in Bucharest over the weekend.
Said to have been started by sparks from fireworks let off by metal band Goodbye To Gravity, the fire ravaged the Colectiv Club on October 30th. Sending over 100 people to hospital on top of those who lost their lives, police have arrested three owners of the nightclub under suspicion of manslaughter.
Around 20,000 people then took the street to protest, calling for Prime Minister Ponta to step down and accusing him of being corrupt and willfully ignoring poor safety practices.
“When something very serious like that happens and young people die, we see it as an attack against us,” one protester told media. “Things must change and change must come from those who govern us.”
The blaze tore thorough the club after insulating foam on two pillars caught fire and filled the room with smoke. Quoted by The Telegraph, Lemi Black of Goodbye To Gravity said that following the foam catching alight “they then set fire to wood inside the building, which burned everything really quickly… It was made worse by the fact that the only way out was a relatively small door,” the club hosting 400 fans at a free album launch for the band.
However despite Ponda’s resignation, authorities say the fire was due to venue management exceeding the venue’s capacity. “Data and evidence… have shown the fire occurred because the people managing the respective space encouraged and allowed a number of people above the club’s limit in a space that was not endowed with more emergency exits,” prosecutors were quoted by The Guardian as saying.
For the protestors though, the blame lies squarely at the feet of local authorities for failing to properly inspect clubs and public places due to corruption. Chanting ‘murderers’ as they marched the streets of Bucharest the protestors had called for Ponta and his deputy Prime Minister Gabriel Oprea to resign along with the mayor of Bucharest’s fourth district, Cristian Popescu Piedone, the district where Colectiv is located.
Speaking to Romanian TV, Ponta resigned on Wednesday, saying that “I hope the government’s resignation will satisfy the people who came out in the streets.” Already facing legal action over corruption charges and allegedly engaging in fraud, tax evasion and money laundering, Ponta nevertheless denies these charges despite his resignation.
Catch footage from yesterday’s protest, below.
— Vlad (@owltakestime) November 3, 2015