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27 Nov, 2013 12:08

Latvia PM resigns over supermarket roof collapse that killed 54

Latvia PM resigns over supermarket roof collapse that killed 54

Latvia’s prime minister has announced his resignation over a Riga supermarket collapse that killed more than 50 people last week.

"I announce resigning from the post of prime minister, taking political responsibility for ... the tragedy," Valdis Dombrovskis told journalists, according to local news agency BNS. 

Dombrovskis has headed the country’s government since March 2009, making him the longest-serving prime minister in Latvia's history. 

"I wish to thank Latvia's society for support during the trying period when the country was battling the economic and financial crisis to return to the path of growth. I also apologize for all that we have failed to achieve," the PM said.

Latvia's Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (C) (Reuters)

It is now for President Andris Berzins to either accept or reject the resignation. If he accepts it, Berzins will nominate an acting prime minister, who will be tasked with forming a new cabinet.  

"I wish to ask every person looking ahead to evaluate their responsibility and act accordingly,"
said President Berzins.  He has called on the National Security Council's meeting for December 4 to review matters concerning the disaster in Zolitude.

Prime minister's resignation also ends the mandate of his government, which faced criticism following the collapse. 

Dombrovskis has said that if it is suggested he heads the government again, he won’t accept the offer.

"I've just quit the premier's position and I don't think it will be possible to occupy that seat again after the forthcoming political consultations," Dombrovskis said. "I’ve discussed the issue with our President.”

Dombrovskis stressed that he took his decision without any pressure from the President.

“Since last Thursday I have been thinking about my moral and political responsibility. I have been thinking about my resignation during the five days since the tragedy, but I made my decision at a meeting with the President, who didn’t pressurize me,” Dombrovskis said.

He will serve as the Prime Minister until a new cabinet is formed and then plans to return to the Parliament to serve as a deputy.

The move  comes amid economic changes in Latvia - the country is due to join the eurozone in January, becoming the second Baltic nation to join the united currency club.

Fifty-four people have been killed and dozens injured after the roof of a large store collapsed in Latvia’s capital.

Following the tragedy Latvian President Andris Bеrzins called for an immediate investigation into what he called the “murder of unprotected people.”

Some 500 square meters of roof caved in at the store’s building on Thursday night.

The initial collapse in Riga’s densely populated area was followed by a second cave-in just as the first responders at the scene were helping the victims.

Three rescuers and firefighters were killed by the second collapse. 

Berzins lashed out at the construction firm that was building a residential compound that included the store, saying that it was already trying to shun all responsibility for the collapse. 

Firefighters clear the debris outside the Maxima shopping mall in Riga (RIA Novosti)