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Bucharest fire: protests continue despite Ponta's resignation

Anti-government rallies in Romania have continued, following a deadly nightclub blaze at the weekend. The resignation of Prime Minister Victor Ponta on Wednesday failed to stop a second day of protests.

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Ponta quits after Romania protests - DW News

Protesters gathered once again on Wednesday evening at University Square in central Bucharest, a traditional site for anti-government rallies, calling for early elections. Rallies were also held in the cities of Cluj, Timisoara and Constanta.

Wednesday's turnout was even bigger than the previous evening and came hours after the country's embattled Prime Minister Victor Ponta stepped down.

Animosity against Ponta's government has come to the fore once again following a deadly fire at a Bucharest nightclub on Friday night, which left 32 people dead and nearly 200 injured. Many of those hurt remain in a critical condition after the inferno sparked a deadly stampede.

The tragedy, which happened when a pyrotechnics display triggered a fire at the Colectiv nightclub, prompted opposition MPs to call for a fundamental change to a society they said was torn apart by corruption.

Nation in shock

"People want a change in the system, half measures will no longer work," Marius Matache, a musician taking part in the march, told Agence France-Presse.

Many demonstrators carried banners that read "Corruption Kills". Others chanted the word "Killers" and waved the national flag with holes in it - a symbol of the popular revolution 25 years ago that toppled the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

Several people called on other Romanians to join the protest, yelling "Get out of your homes if you care!" And "Don't be afraid, the country is rising up!"

Victor Ponta

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta has been charged with fraud, evasion and money laundering

Ponta announced he would resign on Wednesday, before a meeting between his Social Democrat party and their coalition parties nominated Defense Minister Mircea Dusa as interim premier.

President Klaus Iohannis, who defeated Ponta in last November's presidential election, will also consult separately over appointing a new premier.

"This tragedy (the fire) touched the nation's most sensitive nerve," Iohannis said on Wednesday, adding that he regretted that "people had to die for the government to step down."

Days were numbered

Ponta had ignored prior calls to resign after being indicted in September for forgery, money laundering and being an accessory to tax evasion during his time as a lawyer. He is likely to face his first court hearings later this month.

Romania's anti-corruption agency has rounded up dozens of former politicians and judges over similar allegations of graft.

More details have emerged about Friday's tragedy, which saw the largest number of deaths since the revolution that followed the end of Communism.

Local media have hailed as heroes two men who repeatedly re-entered the burning club to rescue revelers, only to die themselves.

Three of the club's owners have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.

Officials said the venue was not authorized to hold concerts or stage pyrotechnic events.

mm/jr (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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