WORLD Portuguese prime minister apologizes as fire death toll rises to 42


Portuguese prime minister apologizes as fire death toll rises to 42


13:35, October 19, 2017

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa apologized to the nation on Wednesday as the death toll from the weekend's forest fires rose to 42.

Costa's apology came in parliament during prime minister's question time. Hugo Soares, parliamentary leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), challenged Costa to ask forgiveness of the Portuguese people for the devastating consequences of the forest fires.

Costa duly apologized, and said "I take responsibility as prime minister and so when I apologize I do so as a citizen."

More than 500 wild fires flared up across the north and center of Portugal on Sunday, claiming 42 lives, the National Civil Protection Authority confirmed. Some 70 people remain injured, more than a dozen seriously.

More than 100 people have died in forest fires in Portugal in the last four months.

The government has been heavily criticized for its handling of the crisis. Minister of Internal Administration Constanca Urbano de Sousa announced her resignation on Wednesday and the Central Social Democratic-Popular Party has tabled a vote of no confidence in the government for next week.

When challenged by Soares to trigger a counter vote of confidence, the prime minister refused to be drawn. "Parliament will decide next week whether it has no confidence in the government or whether it supports the government to continue to perform its duties," Costa said.

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