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News 24 Jan 14

Romanian Interior Minister Quits in Air Crash Row

Radu Stroe resigned amid a continuing row over a tardy rescue mission following Monday's plane crash in Transylvania.

Marian Chiriac
Bucharest

Stroe resigned on Thursday but insisted he was only stepping down to protect emergency unit workers wrongfully blamed for delays in reaching survivors of Monday's plane crash.

"They are heroes who save lives, and five lives were saved in this plane crash," the outgoing minister said.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta accepted his resignation and nominated Deputy Interior Minister Gabriel Oprea to replace him on a temporary basis.

Stroe apologized for causing outrage for having said earlier that the only thing he reproached himself for was that the tragedy "happened during my term".

His resignation came one day after two other officials were dismissed following an outcry over the five-hour delay in rescuing survivors of the crash.

Two passengers died and five others remain in a critical condition after the plane came down in a remote area in the Apuseni mountains in central Transylvania.

Rescuers took hours to reach the survivors in an area situated at an altitude of 1,400 metres and with a 30-centimeter layer of snow.

The area was barely reachable, with little phone coverage. In the end it was nearby villagers, not professional rescue workers, who found the survivors.

The team of medics on the plane was on its way to the northwestern city of Oradea to perform a surgical resection of a liver that was to be taken to Bucharest for donation.

Prime Minister Ponta said there had been “unacceptable deficiencies in the rescue operation. The institutions involved worked unacceptably slowly.”

Ponta announced new measures to improve the emergency rescue system, including setting up a new intervention committee. However, according to some reports, such a committee already exists.

The government has offered to decorate the survivors as well as those who found them.

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