Thousands march in Romania as toll from nightclub fire reaches 32

Thousands of people rally demanding government resignations as the death toll from a night club fire at the weekend reached 32 in Bucharest, Romania on Tuesday.
Thousands of people rally demanding government resignations as the death toll from a night club fire at the weekend reached 32 in Bucharest, Romania on Tuesday. PHOTO: REUTERS

BUCHAREST (REUTERS) - Thousands of people protested across Romania on Tuesday, demanding cabinet resignations as the death toll from a nightclub fire reached 32, with dozens more people in hospital critically hurt.

Angry about the way authorities grant permits and inspect public venues, protesters were still pouring into the streets late into the night, carrying banners saying "Corruption Kills"and chanting "Murderers!" The disaster last weekend was one of the country's worst in decades.

In Bucharest, more than 20,000 people marched to the government headquarters and the interior ministry, and protests spread out in the central Romanian cities of Brasov and Ploiesti. More rallies were being announced on Facebook across Romania in coming days.

The fire broke out on Friday night, when fireworks lit at a rock concert inside the Colectiv club set non-fireproofed insulation foam ablaze, triggering a stampede towards the single exit and trapping many of the roughly 400-strong audience inside.

In Bucharest, marchers shouted demands for Prime Minister Victor Ponta and deputy prime minister Gabriel Oprea to resign along with the mayor of the district where Colectiv is located.

"Wake up and do something," a woman shouted as the march blocked traffic on one of Bucharest's busiest boulevards. "We want justice."

Donors queued at blood centres and volunteers took food and drinks to Bucharest hospitals for medical staff and victims' families.

Outside Colectiv, thousands of people laid a blanket of candles and flowers in remembrance.

Late on Tuesday, a Bucharest court decided to grant prosecutors a 30-day arrest warrant against the three owners of Colectiv, who were taken into custody on Monday on suspicion of manslaughter.

"All I can do is keep my head bowed before judgement," owner Costin Mincu said on Facebook through his lawyer, so far the only comment from any of the three men. "I regret what happened enormously."

The government passed additional legislation on Tuesday that would allow Romania's emergency response authority to immediately shut venues that do not have permits, take adequate safety measures or observe entry limits.

Ignoring calls for his resignation, district mayor Cristian Popescu Piedone said he would build a monument outside Colectiv. He has said that as far as the local authority was concerned, the club had all the necessary paperwork.

After the Bucharest protest started, premier Ponta announced he had fired the head of the consumer protection agency for failed oversight over Colectiv.