Friday 16 November 2018

Portugal's interior minister resigns after scores killed by wildfires

A house burns in the village of Pinheiro dos Abracos near Oliveira do Hospital (AP)
A house burns in the village of Pinheiro dos Abracos near Oliveira do Hospital (AP)

The Portuguese government minister in charge of emergency services has resigned after 106 people were killed in wildfires this year.

The government said on its website that interior minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa has tendered her resignation and prime minister Antonio Costa has accepted it.

Ms Urbano de Sousa said in her resignation letter that she wanted to quit after 64 people were killed in a wildfire four months ago, but Mr Costa asked her to stay.

She repeated her request after 42 people died in another spate of wildfires last weekend.

She said she has prepared the ground for policy changes expected to be adopted by the government.

Ms Urbano de Sousa wrote: "Although the tragedy (last weekend) was caused by multiple factors, I came to the conclusion that I could not continue for political and personal reasons."

The wildfire deaths are by far Portugal's highest annual toll and have stunned the country. Silent protests are slated for next weekend in an effort to press the government into taking more decisive action.

Authorities say arsonists are to blame for starting most of the wildfires.

Ms Urbano de Sousa had been under severe political pressure to quit. Investigations into the June wildfire deaths, which occurred in one night, found numerous shortcomings in the official response.


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