Latvia’s prime minister resigns over deadly supermarket collapse
Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis abruptly resigned Wednesday, saying he was taking “political responsibility” for a supermarket collapse that killed more than 50 people last week and caused outrage in the small Baltic nation.
Dombrovskis, who took office at the height of the European economic crisis in 2009, told reporters that the country needs a new, broad-based government that will have the support of Parliament.
“I wish to thank Latvia’s society for support during the trying period when the country was battling the economic and financial crisis to return to the path of growth,” Dombrovskis was quoted as saying by the Latvian news agency LETA. “I also apologize for all that we have failed to achieve.”
At least 54 people, including three firefighters, were killed and dozens injured in the Nov. 21 collapse at a Maxima supermarket in the Zolitude neighborhood of the capital, Riga. First, part of the roof caved in, then a wall came crashing down as rescue teams worked at the scene.
According to local news reports, it was the largest loss of life since Latvia declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Dombrovskis’s unexpected announcement followed a meeting Wednesday with President Andris Berzins, who has called the disaster “murder.”
“I wish to ask every person looking ahead to evaluate their responsibility and act accordingly,” Berzins was quoted as saying this week. He is expected to begin talks with political parties next week about forming a new governing coalition.
The cause of the collapse is under investigation, but officials have speculated that poor construction and lack of oversight may have played a part.
A national building inspectorate was phased out under Dombrovskis’ government as part of tough austerity measures introduced amid a deep recession. Latvia received a bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund in 2008, but now has the EU’s fastest growing economy.
It enters the Eurozone on Jan. 1.
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