Thousands march in Bucharest as toll from nightclub fire reaches 32

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Thousands of people marched towards government headquarters in Bucharest late on Tuesday, demanding cabinet resignations as the death toll from a nightclub fire at the weekend reached 32, with dozens more in hospital in critical condition.

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

Angered by one of the country’s worst disasters for decades and by the way authorities grant permits and inspect public venues, the protesters carried banners that said “Corruption Kills” and chanted, “Murderers”.

They shouted demands for Prime Minister Victor Ponta and deputy prime minister Gabriel Oprea to resign along with the mayor of Bucharest’s fourth district, where Colectiv is.

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

More protests are being organized through social media for the next few days. Unofficial estimates said that 15,000 people attended Tuesday’s march. Police gave no figures.

The fire has also triggered an outpouring of support, with donors queuing to donate at blood centers, volunteers taking food and drinks to Bucharest hospitals for medical staff and victims’ families.

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

On Tuesday evening, a Bucharest court was in the process of deciding whether 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 judgment,” 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 the country’s emergency response authority to immediately shut venues that do not have permits, respect safety measures or allow more people in than is allowed.

Ignoring calls for his resignation, fourth 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.

Editing by Louise Ireland